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Posted at 9:36 AM ET, 02/18/2011

Unions aren't to blame for Wisconsin's budget

By Ezra Klein

Let's be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions. That's also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states. There was no sharp rise in collective bargaining in 2006 and 2007, no major reforms of the country's labor laws, no dramatic change in how unions organize. And yet, state budgets collapsed. Revenues plummeted. Taxes had to go up, and spending had to go down, all across the country.

Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don't blame the unions. Not for this recession.

Of course, the fact that public-employee pensions didn't cause a meltdown at Lehman Brothers doesn't mean they're not stressing state budgets, and that the pensions they've been promised don't exceed what state budgets seem able to bear. But the buildup of global capital that overheated the American housing sector and got packaged into seemingly riskless financial products that then brought down Wall Street, paralyzing the economy, throwing millions out of work, and destroying the revenues from state income and sales taxes even as state residents needed more social services? The answer to that is not to end collective bargaining for (some) public employees. A plus B plus C does not equal what Gov. Scott Walker is attempting in Wisconsin.

In fact, it particularly doesn't work for what Walker is attempting in Wisconsin. The Badger State was actually in pretty good shape. It was supposed to end this budget cycle with about $120 million in the bank. Instead, it's facing a deficit. Why? I'll let the state's official fiscal scorekeeper explain (pdf):

More than half of the lower estimate ($117.2 million) is due to the impact of Special Session Senate Bill 2 (health savings accounts), Assembly Bill 3 (tax deductions/credits for relocated businesses), and Assembly Bill 7 (tax exclusion for new employees).

In English: The governor called a special session of the legislature and signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health-care policy experiment that lowers overall tax revenues (among other things). The new legislation was not offset, and it helped turn a surplus into a deficit [see update at end of post]. As Brian Beutler writes, "public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda."

But even that's not the full story here. Public employees aren't being asked to make a one-time payment into the state's coffers. Rather, Walker is proposing to sharply curtail their right to bargain collectively. A cyclical downturn that isn't their fault, plus an unexpected reversal in Wisconsin's budget picture that wasn't their doing, is being used to permanently end their ability to sit across the table from their employer and negotiate what their health insurance should look like.

That's how you keep a crisis from going to waste: You take a complicated problem that requires the apparent need for bold action and use it to achieve a longtime ideological objective. In this case, permanently weakening public-employee unions, a group much-loathed by Republicans in general and by the Republican legislators who have to battle them in elections in particular. And note that not all public-employee unions are covered by Walker's proposal: the more conservative public-safety unions -- notably police and firefighters, many of whom endorsed Walker -- are exempt.

If you read Walker's State of the State address, you can watch him hide the ball on what he's doing. "Our upcoming budget is built on the premise that we must right size our government," he said. "That means reforming public employee benefits -- as well as reforming entitlement programs and reforming the state’s relationship with local governments." Not a word on his actual proposal, which is to end collective bargaining for benefits.

If all Walker was doing was reforming public employee benefits, I'd have little problem with it. There's too much deferred compensation in public employee packages, and though the blame for that structure lies partially with the government officials and state residents who wanted to pay later for services now, it's true that situations change and unsustainable commitments require reforms. But that's not what Walker is doing. He's attacking the right to bargain collectively -- which is to say, he's attacking the very foundation of labor unions, and of worker power -- and using an economic crisis unions didn't cause, and a budget reversal that Walker himself helped create, to justify it.

And it's not as if public employees aren't hurting. In the Wisconsin budget report I quoted earlier, the state's fiscal bureau goes on to survey the state of the economy. "Going forward, Global Insight expects private sector payrolls to grow by 2.1 million in 2011, 2.6 million in 2012, and 2.5 million in 2013. Projected cutbacks in the number of public sector employees, however, are expected to partially offset those private sector gains. In 2010, the number of state and local government employees fell by an estimated 208,000 positions. In 2011, those cutbacks are expected to total an additional 150,000 positions." In other words, private jobs are coming back, but state and local jobs are still being lost. Public-employee unions are on the mat. Walker is trying to make sure they don't get back up.

Update: I've been persuaded that the surplus-to-deficit picture is more complicated that I initially understood. The budget report is working with two time periods simultaneously: 2010-2011, and then 2011-13. The $130 million deficit now projected for 2011 isn't the fault of the tax breaks passed during Walker's special session, though his special session created about $120 million in deficit spending between 2011 and 2013 -- and perhaps more than that, if his policies are extended. That is to say, the deficit spending he created in his special session is about equal to the deficit Wisconsin faces this year, but it's not technically correct to say that Walker created 2011's deficit. Rather, he added $120 million to the 2011-2013 deficits, and perhaps more in the years after that.

By Ezra Klein  | February 18, 2011; 9:36 AM ET
 
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Comments

I wish you had gotten a better chance to make this point on Morning Joe, as it seems this statement is in direct reply to his coverage of the issue.

Posted by: rcd2 | February 18, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

"In fact, it particularly doesn't work for what Walker is attempting in Wisconsin. The Badger State was actually in pretty good shape. It was supposed to end this budget cycle with about $120 million in the bank. Instead, it's facing a deficit. Why? I'll let the state's official fiscal scorekeeper explain (pdf):"


This document doesn't say what talking points memo pretends it says.

It is a delta document which shows a change of budgetary the conditions. More importantly, it does not address the entirity of the next biennium.


To understand the delta document, you have to look at the source first; namely, the existing deficit already in place when Walker took office.

Annual Difference -- Revenues vs. Expenditures

2011 2012 2013
$96 -$681 -$85

http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/large/110207_State_Budget_Office_Analysis.pdf

Private economists have come to similar conclusions.

http://www.lafollette.wisc.edu/publications/workingpapers/reschovsky2010-016.pdf

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 18, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Here are the actual documents for the entire biennium budget cycle.

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/Misc/2010_07_09_WI%20Leg.pdf


Net appropriations in 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 are CLEARLY higher than net revenues.

Now, back to the original issue, let's start by pointing out that the great states of Virginia and North Carolina already have a ban on public sector collective bargaining.

What's the problem?

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 18, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Thank you for reporting on what led to Wisconsin's financial problems. Maybe the New York Times will catch up some day.

Posted by: fran12567 | February 18, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Given that you oppose the Governor's proposal are you also condoning the tactic of the state senators fleeing the state to prevent a quorum and thus block the measure?

That would seem rather hypocritical given your past denunciations of obstructionist tactics such as the filibuster.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 18, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Collective bargaining for benefits AND decent working conditions. People bash the unions, and yet the reason they have decent working conditions is because of the fight for decent working conditions over the past 8 decades. If you get weekends off, thank a union member.

Posted by: AnnsThought | February 18, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Who is blaming the unions? It's not about blame its about creating flexibility to deal with a crisis like this. I support gov. Walker, he is at least showing leadership and not just doing a short term fix.

FYI - not one comment about the fleeing State Senators running away from Democracy. . . I remember your comments about filibuster limitations. I guess consistency is too much to expect.

Posted by: sarno | February 18, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Please, please Ezra, for love of country and for the sake of struggling middle class Americans everywhere, please make these points on "Morning Joe." He uses his show as a propaganda platform for all the predictable GOP talking points, completely ignores the whole collective bargaining grab or the reason for the state budget deficit, and you and Barnicle let him do it for two hours before Gene Robinson comes on air, Joe, I guess, goes off-set to take a leak, and finally some truth is spoken. I'm praying for you that you will find the courage and opportunities to share truth with a wider audience when you're on teevee. Thanks for your great reporting and your service as a journalist to our country.

Posted by: prairiepopulist1 | February 18, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

"Given that you oppose the Governor's proposal are you also condoning the tactic of the state senators fleeing the state to prevent a quorum and thus block the measure?

"


Let's also point out that the filibuster is legal and quorum denial is NOT.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 18, 2011 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Another Teabagger governor, FUNDED by the Koch billionaires, screwing the middle class.

Posted by: angie12106 | February 18, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

krazen1211, because workers should be permitted to bargain with their employers about the terms and benefits of their employment. As Ezra points out, sometimes both parties will agree to a deal that isn't sustainable, or becomes unsustainable due to a change in the environment, but the response is to renegotiate.

Posted by: MosBen | February 18, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

"krazen1211, because workers should be permitted to bargain with their employers about the terms and benefits of their employment. "


Why? The Wagner Act excludes public sector bargaining, and states have a history of outlawing such behavior when they choose to.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 18, 2011 10:16 AM | Report abuse

sarno,
What crisis? What flexibility? What democracy? What leadership? As for the Democrats denying the state senate a quorum, sometimes the minority just digs in and says no. Ask Mitch McConnell, he'll tell you how it's done.

Posted by: crosspalms | February 18, 2011 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,

While I totally agree with you that they should be allowed to collectively bargain my issue is that they're not really barganing when you're bargaining with groups that have given you hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions over the last 20 years. Most unions give 85-90% of the political donations to Democrats and it is expected practice that negotiations are handled differently then.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 18, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Soooo, Wisconsin looses 358,000 govt jobs in 2010/2011 and it does not have a problem w/ excessive union workers? How can the state function if all these employees are so critical to the state? Ezra, you are obviously towing the line for your democrat union overlords. On the state level the unions are 100% the problem in every state. California anyone? How about Mont county where almost every cop working more than 5 years makes over $100k + benefits/pension.....CLOWN

Posted by: j751 | February 18, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

krazen,
Wisconsin has had public sector collective bargaining since 1959 - the first state to have it. Why the push to undo 52 years of tradition that did not materially contribute to Wisconsin's budget woes? Answer: ideology and politics from Scott Walker. Sometimes non-violent extra-legal resistance is the only solution. After all, Republicans and Tea Partiers have been reminding us for the last two years how patriotic it is to resist government tyranny - even if it means refusal to comply with "immoral" laws.

Posted by: ElrodinTennessee | February 18, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Finally!

It's about time some of the Ivy Leage liberal crowd realize that they don't get to implement their policy ideas without labor doing all the lifting.

All the neat concepts and studies you guys do (and they are often creative and smart) aren't worth a nickle without working people organized. Because, you'll have a world dominated by multinational corporations who only care about next quarter's profits.

Does anyone think your ideas will be considered in that world?

Solidarity!

Posted by: rat-raceparent | February 18, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Let the non-union majority decide whether or not the union contracts are fair or not. Lay out what the working union workers get and list all of the workers who have retired in the past 5 years to show what their base pay was before they retired, their job title, how many years they worked, their age at retirement and then list what their pension is now and whether or not they get to keep their health benefits free of charge after they retire. That is all the information we need to decide whether or not there wages and benefits in retirement are fair relative to what the rest of the population gets. It should not be confidential. If it is, don't list their names.

Posted by: nychap44 | February 18, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

The Unions were created 100 years or so due to poor wages and poor conditions. They currently have become an entity to itself.... owning the government and Obama as well. I guess that's how he got elected.... but on to another point.

When the BP's rig exploded Obama could have over-ruled the "Jones Act" as presidents BEFORE him (Clinton, Bush) that US allows other countries in with the ability and resources to clean up the GUlf. Low and behold.... Obama didn't allow it due to the UNIONS!!! We could have cleaned it up in a shorter time.... I know.... I work in that area. Not that he is in bed with them.

Wake up America. Support what Wisconsin is doing!!!! The US is

Posted by: mjones1303 | February 18, 2011 10:29 AM | Report abuse

visionbrkr,

Yes, workers groups tend to support Democrats -- because Democrats support working people.

That's what this is about, knee-capping a political foe. Not money. It's a power grab, just like your hero Reagan did.

BTW, how's the economy been for working people since the 1980's? Terrible if your are an average Joe (say, like a plumber).

Posted by: rat-raceparent | February 18, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Walker's move was buffoonish. Had he simply made it a contract negotiation issue, he would have had widespread support. In making it a union busting issue, he showed his hand was concerned with a political objective and not a fiscal one.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 18, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

I'm not sold on collective bargaining rights for government workers. Their material gain comes from a rather captive taxpayer base and mandatory dues collected from members fund the campaigns of those who would be agreeable to legislate for even more gain. In essence it becomes a self-perpetuating cash generating machine. Enough!

Posted by: slim21 | February 18, 2011 10:38 AM | Report abuse

@rat-raceparent,

so you're admitting that public unions BUY Democrats and then as payoff Democrats must give overly generous benefits to unions? How is that fair to the taxpayer? How is that fair even to the unions when in the end they ask for the moon and get nowhere close.

if reasonable figures for pensions were put into place in union negoations they could also negotiate for better pay that is more realistic but instead they ask for the moon, get nowhere close and then shut down the government.

Why no concern over the government shutdown in Wisconsin? We're all concerned over the potential federal government shutdown.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 18, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

you are correct when you say unions did not cause this state or the nation's deficits; but gosh darn, why let a good crisis good to waste if it means we can eliminate that which we have been against all along - unions, heck yes, big bird - of course, epa and education - outta here.

Posted by: sbvpav | February 18, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

In my private sector job I have to make a decision every year when our Health Insurance plan comes up for renewel. I have to choose between paying a higher premium or a plan with a higher deductible. So I ask, why should government employees that I support with what's left of my paycheck after I purchase my own health insurance not face the same choices that I must?

Posted by: AForgottenMan | February 18, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"Wisconsin has had public sector collective bargaining since 1959 - the first state to have it. Why the push to undo 52 years of tradition that did not materially contribute to Wisconsin's budget woes? Answer: ideology and politics from Scott Walker. "


The only reason to allow public sector collective bargaining is ideology.

So if its a battle of ideologues, my guess is the guy elected wins.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 18, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

my daughter is in management where the senators went to hide out.
She, as well as the rest of the family, supports them.
I support the unions and what Walker is doing has been a long planned hit to take down unions and make the democratic party too weak to compete.
Ending our democracy with permanent one party rule.
Guess who is behind this...the traitorous Kochs.
A manager in Walkers campaign came from the Koch circle.
this is why public employees have suddenly become the scapegoat the past few months.
good luck to this country in the next 2 years. it's going to be ugly

Posted by: vwcat | February 18, 2011 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Same thing with the current U.S. budget mess.

The budget cuts being made in the CR as we speak and proposed in the FY12 budget, such as energy assistance to the poor, are needed to pay for the cost of extending tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans.

The U.S. cannot cut itself out of this deficit mess; it can only grow out of it through increased employment.

And what will the wealthiest Americans do with the money they're getting with the continued tax breaks? They will uniformly invest it overseas, not here, at the expense of U.S. jobs.

I used to think there were a bunch of smart people in the Republican Party, but there aren't. There are those who cynically game the system to enrich their own, and the rest buy the lie at the heart of it.

Follow the money...where are the wealthy investing their money? It's not in growing employment in America.

Posted by: HillRat | February 18, 2011 10:48 AM | Report abuse

--*But that's not what Walker is doing. He's attacking the right to bargain collectively -- which is to say, he's attacking the very foundation of labor unions, and of worker power*--

As labor unions have been granted rights to which no other entity in the country is entitled, I would say the "very foundation of labor unions" is illegitimate, and should be rescinded.

I'm all for unlimited free association, but employers should also be free to associate with whom they please, and conversely, to freely dissolve their associations with those who form unions against them.

Unions only exist to the degree they do by special dispensation granted in law. Such favoritism under law is inimical to the spirit of the country established on the principle of equal treatment.

Posted by: msoja | February 18, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

"In other words, private jobs are coming back, but state and local jobs are still being lost."

'And.' You should have used 'and' instead of "but" there. Both items are good news. The more private jobs are available for former public employees, the fewer government expenses there'll be for that growing private sector to pay for.

Great news all around!

Posted by: rasqual | February 18, 2011 10:54 AM | Report abuse

If we can get some politician to do something about all the jobs that have been outsourced by our big corporations & bring them back----PROBLEM SOLVED!

Posted by: jrs6776 | February 18, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

and its funny that TPM refers to Walker's budget as "ginned up" because from what the locals say it was actually Doyle's budget that hid 1.1 billion in shortfalls that made the deficit as bad as it was and the changes as necessary as they are.

http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/109275069.html

"Even on his way out, Jim Doyle continues to use Madison math to manipulate budget numbers," Fitzgerald said in a statement.


Also:

One difficulty in measuring the size of the deficit: figuring out whether tax collections will grow enough in the next two years to cover a large share of the state's rising expenses. The Doyle administration report forecast 4.2% growth in tax money next year and 3.4% in the following year - in the range of the 4.2% increase being projected for the current fiscal year ending June 30.

And Ezra look tax collections are expected to increase. Imagine what would have happened had Assembly bill 3 not passed.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 18, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Saboteurs and nihilists

That's what republicans are

It's one of many reasons I am no longer a republican.

After they get the gvmt workers, they'll be coming for YOU.

Who are "they"? Why the execs in all those foreign based corps who now control the Congress, the Supreme Court, and most of our states gvmts. Even as Cjtizens United increases their power, it is also dismantling the ability of average Americans to organize and be s counterweight.

Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 18, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

With all due respect i would not call the states of Virginia or North Carolina 'great'.

Nice, maybe. Quaint, yea. Great? Not in my life time.

Posted by: kindness1 | February 18, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

But they are a factor in the current situation, Ezzy ol'boy, and everyone will have to give something to fix the problems.

And government workers don't need collective bargaining. State payroll structures can care of that.

Posted by: JustJoe3 | February 18, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

If the Unions aren't the fault they should shut up and stay out of the protests as should Obama. Mr. "micromanager" never learn his lesson from calling the cop "stupid" when he didn't follow either story closely!

Posted by: Templeton62 | February 18, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

This isn't about blame.

This is about fixing the problem.

If modifying bad union contracts is part of the problem, then so be it.

States made the mistake of thinking that housing bubble home valuations created long term revenues. They didn't. So now we need to go back to the 2002 home valuations, and adjust state budgets for the actual revenues they're getting.

The way to fix state budgets isn't to spend us all into poverty. The way to fix state budgets is to unravel the spending increases since 2002, which were just an attempt to spend all the money that was coming into the state coffers.

Clearly, the states were over generous with their budget surpluses, and they didn't plan ahead for the rainy day.

Well, now it's raining.

Posted by: postfan1 | February 18, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

It is not about money. It is about the LOVE of money.

Posted by: dmscontractor | February 18, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

The state union has to go. Tell me this what union does the states national guard belong to. They are civil servant too, but they don't belong to a union to prtect them from the unfair state. That is a mystery!

Posted by: trolly | February 18, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,

Many do not realize that you scored a home run for working people on this article, period. There is a place for collecting bargaining even in this employment environment.

China and other places don't use collective bargaining. This is why they can make their employees do some of the most outrageous stuff. I actually thought that the day for polluted environments, hand-out wages, herendous work hours, sick workplace, etc. had long passed. Of course, too few people are now in manufacturing jobs so they believe that the earth if flat.

Wallstreet was the cause for the failures experienced these past few years not collective bargaining.

Posted by: ronhamp | February 18, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

are you claiming that denying a legislative body of quorum is illegal?

Are these senators subject to civil or criminal penalties? That'd be news...

Posted by: js4981 | February 18, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Trickle down is a crock. I think Reagon may have been sincere, but it is a failed and cynical experiment that has made a select few very rich and brainwashed a lot of people with the help of a phony news network.

Posted by: SarahBB | February 18, 2011 11:23 AM | Report abuse

"Unions aren't to blame for Wisconsin's budget"

?????

Klein must be an idiot if he really believes that!

Posted by: apdseal | February 18, 2011 11:26 AM | Report abuse

and as far as NJ goes Ezra it is a problem. As per Pew NJ had a 7.5 Billion pension surplus and as of 2008 it fell to 72% funded and dropping fast all at the hands of McGreevey and Corzine.

And NJ pension costs in 1990 were $68 Million. 2009 it was $416 Million and 2010 it was $638 Million.

The reason behind the huge increase? The coming pension changes that had many people retire in 2009 under the old unaffordable system.


http://php.app.com/charts/njpensionchart.php

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 18, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

unions represent average people

corporations have convinced average people they are the cause of the recession and that they must sacrifice terribly to fix our problems. But unions and average people did not cause these problems, wallstreet and big business did.

Average people appear to be really stupid.

I have no doubt if the GOP asked its supporters to vote on a law to take away their vote, they'd do it.

The people of Iran were similarly fooled, and now they are stuck with a dictator.

Posted by: lauren2010 | February 18, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Unions may not have caused the problem, but Republicans aren't about to waste a crisis. So they can bust another union, remove union funding for elections while their co-conspirators on the U.S. Supreme Court remove all strictures on corporate political finance. A propaganda campaign that would challenge Goebbels, Stalin and Mao for lack of fairness.

Do these corporate overlords really believe that they can push the needle as far as they want, without causing a revolution?

Posted by: Fiscal-Conservative | February 18, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

BTW.... "I am no longer a Democrat"..... The definition of a Republican is a "Raped" Democrat. Which is what liberals tend to do to hard working people.

vwcat:
No problem with keeping the Dems in another State. It's their problem they aren't doing their job. I think it is back firing. They are getting paid for a job that they are absent as well as not representing their constituents. I hope they vote this morning. You guys showed them!!!

Posted by: mjones1303 | February 18, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

BTW.... "I am no longer a Democrat"..... The definition of a Republican is a "Raped" Democrat. Which is what liberals tend to do to hard working people.

vwcat:
No problem with keeping the Dems in another State. It's their problem they aren't doing their job. I think it is back firing. They are getting paid for a job that they are absent as well as not representing their constituents. I hope they vote this morning. You guys showed them!!!

Posted by: mjones1303 | February 18, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

As long as The GOP is willing to utterly destroy a hundred thousand middle class lives in order to give one rich guy the tax break he needed to add a solid gold garage onto his solid gold house, and their allies (xeno/homo/Islamophobes, and fundamentalist religeous zealots) are willing to tolerate that in order to assure that gays and minorities are treated like second class citizens, we will be scr***d as a nation.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | February 18, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Ezra:

In English: The governor signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health-care policy experiment that lowers overall tax revenues. The new legislation was not offset, and it turned a surplus into a deficit


Uh Ezra no it didn't. The deficit is 3.3 Billion. The estimated effect of those changes is 117.2 million.

So if those "conservative tax breaks" never happened the deficit would have been 3.18 Billion. Not to mention the fact that I don't expect they calculate the net gain in revenue that those "conservative tax breaks" brings in.

Nice shell game btw.

How much have the increased costs in Wisconsin's pensions and benefits gone up?

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 18, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Private sector working people and government workers are an apple and an orange. Compensation for private sector workers is governed by economic forces that include the presence of willing and able customers.

Government employee compensation is paid from conscripted monies, the entire process tends to be disconnected from economic realities affecting the private sector, and there is no apparent governance of government wages in far too many jurisdictions.

FDR was correct, government workers should be compensated prudently to promote turnover and maximize fresh ideas in the system and government workers - especially police and firemen, should not ever be allowed to unionize.

Re-opening the discussion on taxpayers regaining control of government worker compensation is long overdue whatever the results in Wisconsin.

Posted by: WLWelch | February 18, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

For decades our white male leaders in this country funneled America's wealth to corporate sociopaths. Now our leaders are scared shitless because people are starting to realize what kind of trash they are. We The People need to get behind Obama and take our country back, including our natural resources.

If you vote for the Tea Party, you might as well vote for polygamist profit Warren Jeffs. They all have the same goat-herder mentality and long for a return to the Dark Age. I watched the film "Banking On Heaven" and couldn't believe the similarities between Mormon fundamentalists and Tea Partiers. Scary.

Posted by: PoeticJustice1 | February 18, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Why hide the truth-Republicans just want a country where the rich get what they want, where mega-corporations make tons of money without haveing to pay taxes (like GE, Exxon) and where the people that actually create the wealth by working every day and buying the things they need, are controlled by the overloards of the society, politicians being funded by banks and mega-corporations. We are getting to the point where Rome was just at the end, the folks in power can't keep fooling everyone (you know-free days at the colliseum) and the banks and corporations, using both their Democrat and Republican stooges, together with the dark lords on the Supreme Court, make laws to suppress the people till they just get fed up. Then you have insurrection and demonstrations here also. Sure pensions are out of whack-make rich folks and rich corporations pay their taxes and see how quick the budget gets balanced. It is class warfare after all.

Posted by: MToffgrid | February 18, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Graduated high school...college...etc. Maybe ended up with good jobs and nice houses. Instead...you want us to pay your way. Nobody said life was fair.To all of you putting this demonstration down. If you were state workers and had these benefits for years suddenly taken away.....you'd be down at the capital whining like little babies. Just because some are better off than you.... doesn't give you a reason to slam them. Should I be disrespectful like you have all been? Well perhaps some of you should have taken different routes in life. The latest video clips from TMZ http://fms.nu/ht8PXC I get the latest what happen. It will be helpful for them who want to keep in touch with updates always like me

Posted by: mastermind7526 | February 18, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein can you name who spoke this?

“Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government….The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, can...not be transplanted into the public service.”

“[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.”

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

---"a conservative health-care policy experiment"

Oh please Ezra. HSAs are not an experiment. The federal government and all but 4 states allow you to deduct HSA contributions from your taxable income. Wisconsin was one of the outliers. There is nothing out of the ordinary about bringing Wisconsin in line with the rest of the country. If you want to argue that now is not the time to do so I would understand, but it is pretty disingenuous to imply he did something radical and partisan.

Posted by: ab_13 | February 18, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Lets see.
State has a surplus.
Republican Governor is elected with a republican majority in the state congress.
Republican Governor and state congress pass huge tax cuts for businses and experimental health savings accounts, without any plan to make up for that lost revenue.
State has a deficit.
Blame deficit on bad unions.
Get the idiot republicans to ingore the fact that it was a Republican governor and congress that caused the deficit.

Why can't the republicans see themselves for what they are? PIGS!!!

Posted by: strictly_liberal | February 18, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Now, back to the original issue, let's start by pointing out that the great states of Virginia and North Carolina already have a ban on public sector collective bargaining.

What's the problem?

Posted by: krazen1211
_____________________
the point is that debating whether unions should exist on its own merits would be fine. using a self created deficit and asking unions to pay for it, is another. Using the self created crisis as cover to not just ask for one time givebacks to cover the tax cuts, but end collective bargaining is political cowardice.

If you want to propose killing unions on the merits, have the balls to do it, don't pretend this crisis is what compels it.

Posted by: JoeT1 | February 18, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Lets see.
State has a surplus.
Republican Governor is elected with a republican majority in the state congress.
Republican Governor and state congress pass huge tax cuts for businses and experimental health savings accounts, without any plan to make up for that lost revenue.
State has a deficit.
Blame deficit on bad unions.
Get the idiot republicans to ingore the fact that it was a Republican governor and congress that caused the deficit.

Why can't the republicans see themselves for what they are? PIGS!!!

Posted by: strictly_liberal | February 18, 2011 12:01 PM | Report abuse

State has a surplus.
Republicans take charge of the state and Governors office.
State now has a deficit.

Sound familar?

Posted by: strictly_liberal | February 18, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I gather that Republicans believe teachers create deficits, but cops and fireman do not. Or are they just being dishonest about the fact that this is about politics, not finance? If it were really about budgets, ALL public service unions would have been included in the legislation.

Why shouldn't the Democratic legislators flee? This is about union busting, not state budgets. If 40 senators representing 1/3 of the population can stop federal legislation, there's no reason why 13 state legislators shouldn't stop the union busting.

Posted by: BuddyK | February 18, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I thought this was a new era of civility?

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 12:06 PM | Report abuse

@strictly_liberal,

That's fantastic analysis except for the fact that these policies were put in place by the Democratic governor Doyle and Governor Walker is now in trying to clean up the Democrats mess. I don't know when these "experimental health savings accounts" actually were started but they've been around since about 1995 so they're not an "experiment"


Nice play on the facts though. I'm sure millions of other liberals would believe you!


You want a better one? My state of NJ had a 7+ Billion surplus in their pension funds in 2000. Then comes Democratic governors Mcgreevey and Corzine and now in 2010 its a deficit of $30 Billion and how Christie is chartered with cleaning up their mess.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 18, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

"the point is that debating whether unions should exist on its own merits would be fine. using a self created deficit and asking unions to pay for it, is another. Using the self created crisis as cover to not just ask for one time givebacks to cover the tax cuts, but end collective bargaining is political cowardice.

If you want to propose killing unions on the merits, have the balls to do it, don't pretend this crisis is what compels it.
"

Blatantly wrong about the self-created crisis. The massive deficit for FY2011-2012 and FY2012-2013 already existed.

When Democrats return to Madison, we can have a proposal and a debate to kill unions on the merits.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 18, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

The unions realize this is an existential threat to their existence. Part of the bill will not let the unions withhold dues from pay checks--the unions would have to collect the dues themselves. People may opt out of or not pay. I disagree with Walker on not including police and fire unions, but this is a good start. Kudos to Scott Walker for taking on the corrupt public sector unions and the democrat politicians they buy with their bribes (excuse me campaign contributions).

Where was the outcry from the left when Pelosi and Reid gang kept passing thousands of pages of legislation with no one reading it?

The hypocrisy of the left knows no bounds.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"Uh Ezra no it didn't. The deficit is 3.3 Billion. The estimated effect of those changes is 117.2 million.

So if those "conservative tax breaks" never happened the deficit would have been 3.18 Billion. Not to mention the fact that I don't expect they calculate the net gain in revenue that those "conservative tax breaks" brings in."


Usually Ezra is more honest. He is citing the figure for the deficit for the remainder of the current FY(2010-2011) and ignoring the deficit for the next 2 fiscal years (FY2011-2012, FY2012-2013).

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 18, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

What is it about the right that they idolize the good 'ol days when workers were little more than chattel and bosses called all the shots? No job security, low wages, unsafe working conditions, long hours, six or seven day workweek, etc. etc. Why does the right hate the middle class so much?

I'm honestly baffled by their fury when they hear of someone who has some job security, a pension, and benefits. Isn't that what all American workers deserve? We are one of the few countries that doesn't even guarantee all workers a vacation. Is money and profit THAT important in America? The right wants to raise the retirement age, cut entitlements, and in general make life miserable for the American worker, while the rich get richer? I can't describe how ugly I think we've become.

Posted by: Trakker | February 18, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm tired of people talking about a "union" as some powerful entity that is run by a few mob bosses who rake in cash and pay off politicians. That's not the way these unions/associations really work. They are made up of hard working Americans who have joined together to have a voice. My voice would not be heard if I alone was trying to battle corporate millionaires and billionaires. We support candidates who listen to us and have like-minded values. The money that our unions/associations have come from thousands who have given small amounts of money compared to the billionaire that gives more money than I make in a year. What sounds more democratic - many uniting with one voice or one voice with many dollars?

I am a public employee. Anyone can do a little research and see how much money I make and how much money my bosses make.
You can find out about our benefits and our pensions. It's open for all to see.
Because of that, many people feel they deserve to make judgements about who I am and how I do my job.

I wonder how people would feel if the private sector had to open up their books for all to see. How much does the owner make? How much does the CEO make? How much do the top level administrator's make?
Be sure to include all the perks and benefits. I think the poor and middle class would be shocked. I think people would demand better pay and better benefits because they would see that the money really is there.

Because I have the right to collectively bargain, I get to see all of the numbers and I get to have a voice in saying what is fair and good for all. Because I am sitting across the table from people who respect me as a person and they know I respect them - we make concessions and we talk about how our organization can become more efficient and better at what we do.

How would that work out if I sat across from my boss and he said

- you made $40,000 last year, and we spent $11,000 on your insurance and your pension is costing us $2000 a year - the economy has been in the tank so you need to take a cut in salary and we are going to have to cut back on your pension.

Then I said well how much did you make? He said, I made 1.5 million in salary, 3 million in stock options, and another 2 million in perks, pension and benefits.

Do you think this would be a comfortable discussion for my boss? No - so the wealthy don't allow these conversations to happen.

There is plenty of money being made in this country. Those who would spend that money, returning it to business owners and corporations aren't being given the wages they deserve. A few are holding on to that money spending it only to try and make more money and to keep the system working favorably for their lavish lifestyles.

I am sure someone will get on here and try and put me in some box - label me in some way - accuse me of having an agenda. I really don't have one. I want more people to be able to earn a descent wage and enjoy life

Posted by: twilk707 | February 18, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Hey Twilk..the difference is in the public sector you are paid by tax payers. In the private sector he is paid out of profits. You get to see what is fair and good for all huh? That is very noble of you for you to determine that.

Ask yourself, do you control where your union dues go? Could you tell the union bosses you don't support Candidate X so I don't want my money going into his coffers?

By the way, please read this quote and tell me who said it if you dare:

“Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government….The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, can...not be transplanted into the public service.”

“[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.”

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I find it hilarious how people can support a free market and capitalism but then complain when workers band together to protect their own interests. When corporations do it, we call it capitalism and innovative business. When workers do it, we call it socialism and waste.

Posted by: pgtl_10 | February 18, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

The public sector is not the free market.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Typical Liberal nonesense by the missing Dem. Senate members...
Democracy is good....unless it threatens to do something I don't like... then I'll go hide out and obstruct.
Walker and his colleagues made no secret of their intentions during the campaign cycle. They were all elected..by very large margins. I'd say the people of Wisconsin have spoken (I'm one of them).
It is political...and that's why the majority wins, much like the majority rammed Obama care down the throats of those who oppposed.
Grow up.

Posted by: smokey3 | February 18, 2011 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Another failure of public education. We don't live in a democracy. We are a democratic republic.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Maybe this will help our intellectually challenged Lefty friends understand why public-sector collective bargaining is a bad idea.

In the private sector, collective bargaining involves two sides, with disparate interests, forcefully advocating for their disparate interests. For example, union bosses sit on one side of the table, while management sits on the other side, and they haggle back forth in order to arrive at an agreement that is acceptable to both.

The problem with public sector collective bargaining is that, in effect, the union bosses are sitting on both sides of the table. Why? Because the people they are "bargaining" with - i.e., Democrat politicians - are utterly beholden to the same union bosses for the campaign contributions and legwork that provide them with their jobs as politicians! IOW: the politicians who are signing off on these contracts with the public-sector unions are fully aware that if they don't tow the union line, they are suddenly going to find their campaign coffers empty come election day!

Are you Leftists truly incapable of understanding the stupidity of such an arrangement? You all love to crowe and scream about Republicans and their "rich fat cats", yet you have NOTHING to say about the out-n-out corruption of the political process engendered by these public-sector unions. Well, fortunately, as is the case in many areas of American society, the general public - meaning the 80% who aren't Leftist thieves - are waking up more and more to the Left's lies and propaganda.

I seem to recall a recent incident when a certain Democrat politician told Republicans that the reason he didn't have to accommodate their views was because "I won."

Well, in Wisconsin, the union goose is meeting the voting public's gander :)

Posted by: rvastar | February 18, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

The writer of this piece leaves out many of the factors that have led to the current fiscal problems in WI. The Democrats raided the Wisconsin Medical Malpractice Fund ($200 M) to "help" balance the budget a year ago. A court order in August of 2010 demanded that this money be restored. (Money Scott Walker has to come up with.)

Before that, Gov. Doyle (D) looted the transportation fund on 3 occasions for a total of $1.3Bn to "balance" the budget. This is a fund collected from gas taxes in order to maintain roads and highways.

Despite already existing budgetary problems, Doyle expanded BadgerCare to include people with incomes up to 200% of the poverty level, creating a shortfall of $300 Mn for the 2011-2013 budget year.

Overall, Doyle's machinations have left the state with a $1.8 Mn structural budget deficit before any new budgets are proposed.

Posted by: dromedary72000 | February 18, 2011 1:06 PM | Report abuse

What is it about the right that they idolize the good 'ol days when workers were little more than chattel and bosses called all the shots? No job security, low wages, unsafe working conditions, long hours, six or seven day workweek, etc. etc. Why does the right hate the middle class so much?

I'm honestly baffled by their fury when they hear of someone who has some job security, a pension, and benefits. Isn't that what all American workers deserve? We are one of the few countries that doesn't even guarantee all workers a vacation. Is money and profit THAT important in America? The right wants to raise the retirement age, cut entitlements, and in general make life miserable for the American worker, while the rich get richer? I can't describe how ugly I think we've become.

Posted by: Trakker | February 18, 2011 1:24 PM | Report abuse

"In my private sector job I have to make a decision every year when our Health Insurance plan comes up for renewel. I have to choose between paying a higher premium or a plan with a higher deductible. So I ask, why should government employees that I support with what's left of my paycheck after I purchase my own health insurance not face the same choices that I must?"

So why aren't you organizing too?

The funny thing is that all of these corporations for the most part depend on the population they collectively employ to consume the products they purchase. When record profits then aren't shared with their employees, is it any wonder the economy continues to slump? If all the largess paid out in bonuses to CEOs were instead distributed among employees, I'm willing to bet there would be much more demand in the economy, and therefore, much more recovery.

The pendulum swings both ways. I think that unions may have been undercut enough at this point that it might be worth considering what benefit can be derived from them. If brain-trusts like Gov. Walker continue down this road, I think our society will find this out sooner than later.

Posted by: arm3 | February 18, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Good article.

I also wish you'd made the point that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics statistics public sector workers make 20-30% LESS than private sector workers who do the same job in base salary, and the total compensation package for public workers (salary, pensions, benefits) is 4% LESS than the private sector. These people don't have cushy overpaid jobs. With all the budget cutbacks and public sector layoffs in WI (over 5,000 in 2009 and 2010 combined) those who are left work pretty hard.

This is just another attack on the middle class and its sad to see so many middle class people advocating against their own self interest.

Posted by: toujoursdan | February 18, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

All for unions--and Walker is clearly just another hack pol--but it is clearly time for some sanity around issues such as overtime, pensions, and so on. Between the costs of government, wars, interest, and allowing financial-services corporations to pocket around 40% of corporate profits (basically for churning, not for raising money) there just ain't much left for the citizenry of the US. I really don't know about the Wisconsin situation, but in California, you have some prison employees making over 100K in overtime alone. Maybe it's time to really look at the actual costs of policies rather than the phony numbers we always see--like defense expenditures calculated yearly without the costs of actual wars, interest, health care for the wounded, etc--you will notice that expenditures on other matters are usually calculated over 10-year periods (and rarely specified in coverage). Oh yeah, a cite on the Cali situation:

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/06/local/la-me-overtime7-2010mar07

Posted by: scientist1 | February 18, 2011 2:07 PM | Report abuse

http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/02/wisconsin-gov-walker-ginned-up-budget-shortfall-to-undercut-worker-rights.php

The Green Bay Packers (A Socialist community owned team - no billionaire owner here) has supported the working class in this. . . It is over - if the Pack backs you in this state - you are on the winning team.)

Posted by: WisconsinReader | February 18, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, your reporting is spot on. There was no fiscal crisis in Wisconsin until the Tea Party governor and his GOP zealots in the legislature banded together to create a deficit.

Reading the vociferous anti-union comments that have been posted, it's amusing to think these same folks likely thought that organized strikes, public demonstrations, and shutting down the government of Egypt was a lofty achievement. So they are for democratic aspirations in Egypt, even if it means getting your hands dirty, but not in Wisconsin.

Gov. Walker is attempting to undo in a week what the workers of Wisconsin earned the right to do over half a century ago. If his idea is so great, I wonder why he's in such a hurry to ram it through.

Posted by: morehallbob | February 18, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

ukcats1996 - I can choose whether or not to join my association - if I don't like what the leadership is doing - I can choose to not join the association/union.

I understand that my salary is paid by tax money - I hear it all of the time.

So you feel workers should have no rights, no voice, that they should show up for work - work hard and take what they are given? Is that your definition of fair?

As for your quote - FDR

“Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government….The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, can...not be transplanted into the public service.”

“[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.”


- there is transparency and meticulous attention paid to the public sector - I would like to see that same transparency and meticulous attention paid to the private sector. As I said before, show the American people the payrolls of the companies and corporations they work for and then we will see where the problems exist.

Posted by: twilk707 | February 18, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

"I'm honestly baffled by their fury when they hear of someone who has some job security, a pension, and benefits. Isn't that what all American workers deserve? "

As this thread makes clear, there are Americans who would gladly vote to be made to live in a box under a bridge eating sparrows grilled on skewers if the person in the box next to them couldn't have the ketchup.

There are also Americans who are more than happy to whine about unions because it diverts attention on how they themselves have chowed down on the corporatist rhetoric and given away their own power at the workplace. Suckers.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | February 18, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

First, let me state that I work in the private sector, and I have no ties to public employee unions (apart perhaps from the fact that my children go to a public school). But I fully believe in the collective bargaining rights that unions have gained legally and over a long period of time.

What I would ask those who are so blatantly and vociferously against union members, such as teachers, is what do you stand to gain by wanting them to get trampled? Why is it that the right is so much against these mostly middle to lower middle class? I know some teachers, and it is not like they take home hundreds of thousands of dollars. They may have some benefits, but look at what they do for our kids.

For me, the overall salary and compensation for public employees comes across as pitiful, and then to have them be piled on is disgraceful.

So, the question begs to be asked: Why are these folks being villified by mainly the right? How much can they be asked to give back for what is effectively not their fault and which they rightfully earned in a bargaining session? How much have JP Morgan or AIG CEOs and executives given back? What type of clawback has the right approved from oil companies and other natural resource concerns that we subsidize?

Why is it always the now working poor that has to suffer for the faults that Mr. Klein so perceptively identifies as the excesses of others?

Please consider these facts and the people before making hyperbolic comments about mythical monoliths like unions.

Posted by: mshivlani | February 18, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

As a union member I hear a lot of people blame the unions for the economy. They believe that if unions were banned and taxes were lowered things would be great. If you look at America's history, during President Eisenhower's administration union membership was over 35% and the highest tax rate was over 90%. Americans had enough income then that most families only needed one income earner. Now the vast majority of families have two wage earners and still can't make ends meet even with lower taxes and lower union membership. Maybe we should go back to the "good old days".

Posted by: hwyguy | February 18, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

@AnnsThought:

And if a company relocated to a southern state and you lost your job in the midwest or Northeast...THANK AN UNION. If your companies labor cost was driven so high because of union thuggary and stikes...THANK A UNION.

they are no longer fighting for work-place safety or better work hours...now they all simply want to feather their next with taxpayer money.

Posted by: vrbjunk | February 18, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Despite all the hand-wringing comments, the proposed elimination of collective bargaining would not reduce anyone's pay or benefits. What it would do is give the state more flexibility in determining future pay and benefits.

Wisconsin, along with many other states, is up against the wall. Financial obligations exceed revenue. Whining about the loss of collective bargaining isn't going to change that. Would it be better for state employees to possibly receive smaller raises in future, or to simply be fired?

Posted by: Oracle3 | February 18, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Now, back to the original issue, let's start by pointing out that the great states of Virginia and North Carolina already have a ban on public sector collective bargaining.

What's the problem?

Posted by: krazen1211

--------------------------------------------
The problem is your perception of Virginia and North Carolina being great states.

I've lived in North Carolina. I live in Virginia. Neither state has anything to brag about.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | February 18, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you're such a partisan hack it's impossible to take you seriously.

Is your criticism of the GOP based on empiricism, or ideology?

Posted by: soma_king | February 18, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you said:

"If all Walker was doing was reforming public employee benefits, I'd have little problem with it. There's too much deferred compensation in public employee packages..."

Great Ezra then as a leader of the Democratic party get with your fiends and fix the problem, this is in fact the very problem Walker is trying to fix.

Why don't we outlaw all defined benefit plans and move to defined contribution plans like we all have in the private sector.

I suspect if push comes to shove you and the rest of the Dems will not support outlaw of defined benefit plans since this is the source of Democratic power; which aims to trade future (unaffordable) promises for current votes and which seeks to extend government dependency to as many voters as possible.

Dems could have fixed these problems when they held both houses and the presidency but they suffered from a fundamental lack of leadership and punted...."change you can belive in...lovely!"

Posted by: ELF2 | February 18, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Ezra "out of his element" Klein, refuses to acknowledge the obvious. The biggest states close to bankruptcy are CA, Ill and NY, all with HUGE public employee benefits that are UNSUSTAINABLE! States like Wis are trying to fend the huge debt off, but Journolist Dims like Klein REFUSE to believe in anything other than the tooth fairy.

Posted by: morphy | February 18, 2011 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Here are some key parts of the proposed bill:

"Unions could still represent workers, but they could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized. Local police, firefighters and state troopers would retain their collective bargaining rights."

That's all you need to know to see this clearly as an attempt to destroy unions in general, not to collectively bargain over reductions in employee benefits.

Walker has played this so badly, in such a baldly poltical and not fiscal way, he'll be lucky to avoid a recall vote, If Wisconsin allows for that!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 18, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

The Republican party, their Plutocrat overlords (the richest 2% in America) and their Teabagger useful idiots have to break the unions to fully solidify control of the country to the Plutocracy (the richest people in America control everything).


They already have control of the south; now they just need to pick off the rest of the country state by state. The mere fight, bloody and protracted, whatever the outcome in a state, will drain the coffers of many unions. Extremist Republican governors are playing politics, nothing more, nothing less. What they're doing does NOTHING to solve their economic problems, in fact what they're doing makes them worse.


I have a hard time understanding what these average middle-class Teabagger morons think they're accomplishing by standing shoulder to shoulder with America's Billionaires, Big Oil Oligarchies and Mega Corporations. Once these wealthy oilgarchs get what they want they're going to toss these middle class Teabagger dopes under the bus and run over them a few times. Mark my words, it will happen.

.

Posted by: DrainYou | February 18, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

As the former ringleader of the JournOlist misinformation machine you would not dare to mislead the pubic on this would you Ezra?

One can usually take whatever you write and point 180 degrees and have the correct heading.

Posted by: georgiarat | February 18, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

twilk707 - there is meticulous attention paid to the public sector unions? To whom doth those unions contribute too? Answer Democrats. Democrats give those unions higher benefits...who pays the tax payer. What voice does the tax payer have? Campaign contributions seem to trump will of the people.

If you opt of the union, are you still covered by collective bargaining? The NJEA let's you opt out -- instead of paying $1300 a year in dues you pay $800. So what are you opting out of?

Public sector employees should be forced to weather the economic forces of the rest of us. Just because you are a teacher or government functionary that does not mean you shouldn't have any fall out. In fact, many private sector unions are finally coming to realize what a crooked game public sector unions are. Google Mike Sweeney (D-Gloucester County NJ). He is an iron worker and he is finally coming to grips what a joke public sector unions are.

The protections that extend to public sector employees should be the same as private sector. You have a mechanism to air your grievances.

By the way, the patron saint of the left argued precisely why public sectors are wrong and you can see exactly why in what is happening in Wisconsin. If the Wisconsin teachers salaries were so bad don't you think the news would have been all over how little the teachers make? And no, just because you are a public sector employee does not entitle you to some protected class.

Defined Benefit plans should be frozen. A defined contribution plan should be the norm.

As far as the same transparency in the private sector -- they are not paid with my tax dollars. I was not for the bail outs of any of the industries. So again, stop biting the hand that feeds you. It wants to feed you still, but not as much. If you don't like it, find another path.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I have voted GOP for over 30 years. I am a Wisconsin teacher. Wiscoinsin teachers have had frozen wages and benefits for over a decade.

When the police and fire pension fund went broke because they get much higher pensions for lower investment the answer was to dump them into the teachers funds so now I pay for their much larger pensions. Walker exempts Police and firefighters? Is there any possible honest reason?

Walker is likely to be recalled the minute the law allows, he is unlikely to win that recall. What he is doing is giving the left a huge boost. He is proving all the charges of working for the special interests to be true. The Wisconsin GOP is going to take a bath in 2012 that will dwarf the swing of 2010 and unless national GOP wise up fast, and sprint away from him, The congress and presidency will all be in Democratic control in 2013.

Walkers actions are very much modeled on the cram it through Obamacare non process. This isn't a liberal vs conservative thing, this is just simply foolish.

Posted by: nevinspa | February 18, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Walker said exactly what he was going to do. Obama campaigned as a moderate and governed as a socialist. Big difference.

This is getting Obama's vote machine fired up and the rest of the SEIU and other union thugs. The difference is this time, the tax payers have had enough.

I disagree with Walker not putting in the police and fire unions. Hopefully they are next.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Wisconsin teachers, that drop that just fell on you is the great trickle down economics experiment working. See, Bush's unfunded tax cuts are working - see the rosy picture all around you?

Or it could have been your Gov. Walker pissing on you. Really - is there a difference?

GOP is such a disgrace.

Posted by: Pillai | February 18, 2011 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I am hoping for a PAATCO moment and the Madison teachers and their wildcat strike are punished severely. It's all about the kids right...let's cancel school now for three days.

Gov. Walker a real profile in courage.

Just how is Walker pissing on the teachers? Perhaps it is time for the teachers to understand the tax payers no longer wish to fund their level of benefits.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

ukcats1996

You said -

"As far as the same transparency in the private sector -- they are not paid with my tax dollars. I was not for the bail outs of any of the industries. So again, stop biting the hand that feeds you. It wants to feed you still, but not as much. If you don't like it, find another path."

I wonder if you would speak to me like this if we were standing face to face.... If I was the teacher of one of your children. I hope you wouldn't, but it parallels the way the very wealthy are treating the average American worker.

Posted by: twilk707 | February 18, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Twilk - If you were standing right in front of me I would tell you the same thing.

The hand is tired of perpetually feeding the beast.

It isn't about the children. It is about keeping your inflated pensions and benefits. Benefits that far outpace anything in the private sector. Truth hurts, but sorry that is the truth hurting.

If it was about the children the Madison school district would not have had to cancel schools because of their illegal strike. I don't know what the sick time rules are in Wisconsin, but I hope it requires a doctors note. I hope repercussions are swift and harsh.

By the way, FDR was absolutely right on this. One of the few things I agree with him on.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Just so you know, I have told teachers the same thing. I am not against teachers, I am against public sector unions precisely because of what we see here in NJ and in Wisconsin.

The unions produce nothing. They take from you thousands of dollars a year in dues for what. To bribe politicians to perpetually increase benefits. ENOUGH! We are broke!

If you are a teacher and a good one, why do you want to continually get paid for mediocrity which is what unions protect? Unions don't give you pay because you are a good worker. Longevity is the only thing that is rewarded. You are not doing the children any good by calling a wildcat strike and sick out.

Public sector unions should be smashed.

I am not rich. Solidly middle class, college educated.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 3:41 PM | Report abuse

ukcats1996 - you also said

"there is meticulous attention paid to the public sector unions? To whom doth those unions contribute too? Answer Democrats. Democrats give those unions higher benefits...who pays the tax payer. What voice does the tax payer have? Campaign contributions seem to trump will of the people."

Why would unions contribute money to those whose party is constantly vilifying organized labor?

The taxpayer needs to raise his/her voice to his/her company/corporation and demand fair wages for his/her labor.

You also said -
"If you opt of the union, are you still covered by collective bargaining? The NJEA let's you opt out -- instead of paying $1300 a year in dues you pay $800. So what are you opting out of?"

If I opt out - I don't pay a dime and I still reap the all of the benefits of the bargained contract. But I choose to pay my dues so that the leaders of my association can interject my voice along with the all of the other powerful voices.

Posted by: twilk707 | February 18, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

ukcats1996 - you also said

"there is meticulous attention paid to the public sector unions? To whom doth those unions contribute too? Answer Democrats. Democrats give those unions higher benefits...who pays the tax payer. What voice does the tax payer have? Campaign contributions seem to trump will of the people."

Why would unions contribute money to those whose party is constantly vilifying organized labor?

The taxpayer needs to raise his/her voice to his/her company/corporation and demand fair wages for his/her labor.

You also said -
"If you opt of the union, are you still covered by collective bargaining? The NJEA let's you opt out -- instead of paying $1300 a year in dues you pay $800. So what are you opting out of?"

If I opt out - I don't pay a dime and I still reap the all of the benefits of the bargained contract. But I choose to pay my dues so that the leaders of my association can interject my voice along with the all of the other powerful voices.

Posted by: twilk707 | February 18, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Republicans are willing to mortgage the country’s future to ensure that millionaires and billionaires don’t go back to the same tax rates we had under Ronald Regan. At the same time they are willing to spit blood and poke out the eyes of the poor and working classes to ensure they cannot form a union. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the GOP is one twisted, sick and evil organization.

Posted by: codexjust1 | February 18, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Unions are a labor monopoly and government unions are a labor monopoly with a DMV attitude.

Give 'em the PATCO heave ho.

Posted by: timstevens | February 18, 2011 3:52 PM | Report abuse

twilk707 - I didn't say those things about public sector unions being a boondoggle - FDR did..the patron saint of the left.

If it was the flip side and republicans took union money I would say the same thing. The problem is and you don't seem to get is this:

The unions contribute to politicians to get them elected. Said politician gets elected, then he gets to negotiate with the very people who contributed to his campaign about their pay and benefits...you don't see a problem with this? You are negotiating with yourself. Hey, I helped you get elected, now pay me. They inevitably do.

The tax payer is then stuck for higher and higher bills and it is so easy for the union to say--well just raise taxes then. No, sorry, I want to keep what I earn. I am tired of paying for pensions that teachers apparently in Wisconsin pay nothing for. I have to fund my retirement. I am tired of paying your entire medical benefit bill--chip in something. And fundamentally, public sector unions are a corrupt bargain precisely for the reasons stated by FDR.

So then you have your public sector unions who have a tantrum when someone sane in the room says we can't afford this any longer. Sorry pal, the jig is up.

Walker said exactly what he was going to do and the electorate of Wisconsin overwhelmingly put him in to do the job. Now it is time for the petulant children to take their medicine--it is a long time coming.

Posted by: ukcats1996 | February 18, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Who's blaming the union? (nice strawman).
I blame the politicians, who made extravagant promises that they were unable to keep during a recession.
The thing is, if a corporation does this, the situation corrects itself and the company goes out of business, or the contracts get modified in bankruptcy court. States don't have that option though.
The question for Ezra and his side is what you do when politicians have made irresponsible promises that can't be kept.

Posted by: invention13 | February 18, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ezra, you putrid rectal polyp, it's the unions that are raising all the rukus.

Posted by: Sal_Minella | February 18, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, the public workers unions have overstayed their welcome. Teachers in WI earn a few bucks more than the private sector workers but they get an average of nearly $40K compared to the Private workers at a little over $10K in benefits.
In addition, they work 9 mos. and based on comparative scores to other industrialized nations, do a sub standard job. If they work for minimum wage in the summer, then they'd make 10% that the private sector worker. They've abused collective bargaining and thus have lost moral ground. In my experience, you actually have to be on high ground to be able to claim it.
The DNC is in a panic because of all the funding they will lose. After the way Obamacare was passed, there is little justified indignation that can come from this party.
Plus, it is an illegal strike ala Fed Air Traffic Controllers. Dock their pay and look for teachers who are willing to work for a fair not an unjustified wage and benefit package. Government unions do NOT serve the same purposes as private sector unions --- they simply promote a money grab and a contribution base for Democrat politicians.

Posted by: pab11111 | February 18, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

I am so happy that the likes of Ezra Kline, Paul Krugman and Eugene Robinson have no say in governing our country.

Posted by: dfox71 | February 18, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

It amazes me how many people are anti-union. Do all of you own your own businesses or are upper-level management? If you're not, then without unions you are basically just giving up any power you possibly have in negotiations with your employer.

Posted by: Aerowaz | February 18, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

We are seeing the beginning of the end of the Soros dominated democrat left and the GOP needs to stiffen their spines and prepare for battle.

The private sector creates the wealth and funds the public sector. Average private sector salaries are now lower than public sector and their must be a reckoning and reform across the states, otherwise we'll all look like that bankrupt liberal experiment , California. We need a re-balance back to the private sector

Bust up these thugs and thieves.....they use children as props....it's all about the money and control of state government.

Posted by: cmdriker | February 18, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

The Obama administration and the Democrat party and its tax eating core supporters, who represent less than 25% of the electorate, are committed to western European style state socialism at the national, state, county and municipal levels. For the first time in living memory, a popular movement has forced some few elected officials to publicly oppose them. The choices are stark and the time is short. We will either gain control of our public spending or we will become another Greece.

Posted by: mvd78209 | February 18, 2011 5:27 PM | Report abuse

This is one of the lamest pieces of excuse-journalism I have seen in a long time - and for people like Klein, that says a lot.

If unions are such a 'good idea', then make union membership OPTIONAL.

Just that simple. Always has been.

Posted by: wilsan | February 18, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Aerowaz:

We are not anti union - we have serious issues with public sector unions. The taxpayer is the employer and the taxpayer has no control at all. The people with control are politicians who got campaign contributions from unions. They are not negotiating on behalf of the taxpayer. They are only negotiating on behalf of their reelection campaign. They use taxpayer money to buy votes. It could not be more clear.

Posted by: MaryOK | February 18, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Middle class republicans are victims of the "Stockholm syndrome". They identify with their captors. No matter how much they are abused, they prefer to identify their abusers because they despise themselves for being victims.
I suggest you poor saps take to the street and protest, it'll empower you.

Posted by: karenfink | February 18, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you are not suffering from general stupidity, I think you have a serious case of metastatic idiocy.

This is not about UNIONS. The unions are ticked off because they are part of the cutbacks whaaaaa booboo hoooooo

Trumka and Oblamer are thugs
and you Ezra, are a dummy

Posted by: rdb2 | February 18, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

"I'm honestly baffled by their fury when they hear of someone who has some job security, a pension, and benefits."

How would you feel if (or rather, when) the government took some money out of your paycheck and gave it to CEOs, or to some dictator in the Middle East?

I'm paying for this job, whether I like it or not. It isn't a voluntary transaction. That's the problem.

If the well paid, secure job was the result of voluntary transactions, it is A-OK with me.

"Isn't that what all American workers deserve?"

Of course not. American workers only deserve the compensation they voluntarily agree upon with their employers. Likewise, American workers are free to leave employers they are unsatisfied with.

"We are one of the few countries that doesn't even guarantee all workers a vacation."

As we shouldn't.

"Is money and profit THAT important in America? The right wants to raise the retirement age, cut entitlements, and in general make life miserable for the American worker, while the rich get richer?"

Get the government out of the retirement business, and people will have their own money and can decide when they want to retire. Liberals put the retirement of most Americans into the government's hands, and will probably have to deal with higher and higher retirement ages as a consequence. That sucks for the 58 year old who lost his job in 2008 and has been running down his savings, but that's just the way the system is.

And it's not about money and profit. It's about this being a free country, or at least it used to be. That was the original idea.

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Sam Adams

Posted by: justin84 | February 18, 2011 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Typical Republican move - create the deficit in the first place by giving huge tax cuts to your Big Business friends and then blame it on the other side.

Posted by: dre7861 | February 18, 2011 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I come from a union family and have been a union worker and am deeply symphathetic to the plight of fellow Americans. However it is not fair to the majority of Americans that we should consistenly pay higher and higher taxes in order to cover the pension fund of a select minority. This results in us having less money to set aside for our own retirement , local , state and federal goverment employees need to start paying for their own retirement and health care cost instead of stickeing their hands deeper into the pockets of other working Americans !

Posted by: getirate | February 18, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

ukcats1996 you said

The unions contribute to politicians to get them elected. Said politician gets elected, then he gets to negotiate with the very people who contributed to his campaign about their pay and benefits...you don't see a problem with this? You are negotiating with yourself. Hey, I helped you get elected, now pay me. They inevitably do.

That's not how it works in my situaton. I bargain with the administrators and the board - if there is no money - than there is no money and I don't get a raise. But I am allowed to see all of the figures - and if there is money available to get a raise, I bargain for a raise. We do not negotiate with politicians. We support politicians who have shown they share our same views - they still have to go through all of our state,s legistlative processes to enact legislation that we support. Why do people want to take this right away from my association, but still allow millionaires and billionaires to support their politicians.

Posted by: twilk707 | February 18, 2011 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Whether they're to blame or not, the whole system is unethical. The unions should not be able to contribute money to any state senator/representative or governor who, in reality, are their bosses. It is a blatant conflict of interest.

If nothing happens in WI, at least this needs to be changed.

Posted by: rob925 | February 18, 2011 6:39 PM | Report abuse

twilk707:

I don't know where you live, but do you negotiate for your pension benefits or just your salary? In Illinois, I don't even know if we know who sets the pension rules. I think the legislature sets the rules for 18 pension funds and they fund five of them. No one really knows who is accountable for the pension fund mess. Salaries are set by the local school boards - who are politicians - and many of whom are school principles themselves.

The salaries are jacked up in the last year by the local school boards- because it increases pensions and the school board doesn't pay them - the state does. It is known as the five year end of career bonus. Mt cousin, a PE teacher, went up from 105,000 annually to 150,000 - for the purpose of retiring with a 96,000 pension with a guaranteed raise of 3% a year.

I think in WI they will still allow negotiations for salary - but no longer for benefits and pensions. The salaries are subject to some parameters - like the rate of inflation -anything higher has to have a referendum.

I think this is fair. We have administration people in a suburb around here that just gave themselves a 10% raise.

Posted by: MaryOK | February 18, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

@pgtl_10 - "I find it hilarious how people can support a free market and capitalism but then complain when workers band together to protect their own interests."

There's nothing wrong with workers forming unions. What's wrong is the special laws put in place *forcing* employers to treat those unions as entities with rights which no other entity in the country possesses.

It is akin to that capitalist building a manufacturing plant and you being *forced* to buy its output.

Posted by: msoja | February 18, 2011 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Are you serious Ezra!? Blame the banks not the unions? Clearly you are a biased and uneducated product of our liberal and weak public school system.

Why blame the banks? Do you even understand what banks do? That is a rhetorical question because your article is based on emotion and "gut feeling" rather than facts.

And your understanding of economics is woeful. Maybe you should stick to sports or arts and leisure.

The problem with pensions, similar to social security, is that the commitments are not properly funded or recorded when the plans are launched. If you do not set aside enough money to pay for pensions and medical care, your liabilities will grow dramatically over time. Politicians love promising future benefits which dont need to be funded today because from their perspective they are essentially free. By making these promises to voting blocks such as public unions, they dramatically mortgage our future to get elected. A clear conflict of inteerst.

Now the unions are perfectly within their rights to try to take so much from us that we will be bankrupted. Just as we are within our rights to try to check them. The only check we have is (often belatedly) at the ballot box. now we are exercising this last resort, and you are whining.

That you do not even recognize the conflict of interest or the degree to which this public bribery has been underfunded and now is clearly putting us in financial peril is irresponsible. Fortunately, you are just a simple-minded writer and aren't responsible for actually running anything or (heaven forbid) fixing anything. You could not.

I do object to your promulgation of negligent ignorance. Shame on you for promoting the harm to our society. Have you no shame!? (rhetorical question)

Posted by: CommonSensePost | February 18, 2011 7:25 PM | Report abuse

--*Have you no shame!?*--

Klein has no shame. He is completely earnest in his foolheadedness and general ignorance.

Posted by: msoja | February 18, 2011 7:34 PM | Report abuse

"Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions."

I suppose that't true. as stated. At it's core it's less about the greed of unionized state employees not caring about sucking the public dry than it is about the state politicians promising ever increasing earnings/benefits to gain the union's votes and contributions in money and "volunteer" campaign workers.

Unions sell their souls and politicans sell their integregity for the public's money, ripped from their hands with the power of government guns.

Yeah, I suppose the GREEDY ol' non-government, non-unionized workers are just heartless, resisting those kind politicians who always rush to "share" ever increasing amounts of other people's earnings.

Go governer, it's "Taxed Enough Already" time -- long live the people and down with the parasites!

Posted by: wncchester | February 18, 2011 7:42 PM | Report abuse

How about blaming the Democrats who left this state in such a mess and all of the politicians who gave up common sense when dealing with public employee's demands to buy their votes.

Posted by: sales7 | February 18, 2011 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Unions have a very long and consistent track record. They dismantled the auto industry, eliminated steel production, destroyed the aluminum industry and they control every aspect of our failing public school system. The union members become unemployment statistics while union executives prosper. Do we need that track record repeated in public employment? No. In Wisconsin they are out on strike right now. That alone proves the point.

Posted by: jaguar6cy | February 18, 2011 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I used to get angry at this type of article due to the inequity of private vs. public pay, benefits, etc. It finally dawned on me that the states and municipal governments will ultimately run out of money. At that point, this whole argument becomes moot.

Posted by: PrudentConservative | February 18, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Another Teabagger governor, FUNDED by the Koch billionaires, screwing the middle class.

Posted by: angie12106 |

Just so you know Angie, Wisconsin school teachers AVERAGE $89,000 per year salary, pay nothing towards their pensions, and pay only a little towards their health care. Are these the middle class people you're talking about? Or is it the rest of the middle class who are paying those teachers salaries for a mediocre job -- outside milwaukee where almost no learning takes place.

Posted by: stanman1 | February 18, 2011 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein's insipid, predictable, sanctimonious posts hardly merit a look, so it's against my better judgment that I add a comment, especially when so many others have covered the bases. (It's also typical that the progressive know-it-all jams his foot far into his mouth with his main data point impugning Gov. Walker, then can't even manage a decent apology or backtrack at the end of this piece -- but I digress). I'll simply echo:

There is no public benefit or reasonable justification for giving government employees of any stripe collective bargaining rights.

For decades, they have "bargained" with compliant politicians whom their growing power and unified greed have helped land in office. Bargaining requires an adversarial relationship between parties, and that doesn't exist when one party (public sector unions) is allowed to influence who sits on the other side of the table. It's that simple. Right -- not all public employees are bad, most are hard working, they educate our children and protect our streets, blah blah. That set of truths is an all-purpose smoke screen to cover a pension and benefit crisis that has grown up over many years. Yes, if the financial crisis hadn't occurred, we might still be living in a fantasy regarding pension-fund shortfalls and unrealistic return rates. Does knowing that somehow solve the problem?

If collective bargaining makes so much sense for public employees, why hasn't anyone thought to extend it to the military? Simply because we could never allow the insidious influence of union power and worker self-dealing to corrupt the mission of the armed forces. But it's apparently okay if we allow those things to go on unbridled when it's teachers and fire fighters.

So when Klein trots out the unfounded and misleading claim that public-employee labor unions aren't the problem, he's talking through his hat. True, they're not the only problem; every other category of liberal overreach in government spending deserves to share the credit. But the largest line item in *any* government's budget is worker pay, benefits and pensions. The Wisconsin move to end collective bargaining for benefits reflects the simple fact that workers would simply use the next political patsy to restore every concession and return the state to an unsustainable path. Frankly, something like that is nearly certain to happen anyway, as the next Democratic legislature pays back its union supporters with another lurch into fiscal la-la land. But the entitled government workers will have none of it. They need to understand something: we, the taxpayers, all of us, are their adversaries in negotiations. It's natural: they want an ever-increasing share of our wealth, and we'd rather hold on to it. Occasionally, we vote people into office who honor that private interest on behalf of taxpayers. That's happened in Wisconsin. It's shameful that the protesting public employees have so little respect for the public will.

Posted by: Imperfections | February 18, 2011 8:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm becoming a huge fan of the reporting done by Ezra Klein. He drills deep into the issues and exposes the political BS (LIES). As a retired small businessman, an independent, I am a fiscal conservative but progressive in that I believe a balanced budget should not be done on the backs of the working class to benefit the most wealthy. GOP is the party that will lead us towards a plutocracy. America was once a healthy economy with a strong, prosperous working class. We - the middle class - are now under attack from the GOP and their policies that result in the "extraction" of more capital out of the economy - tax breaks for the wealthy. Ezra Klein does a terrific job of identifying this trend and the damage it is does to our economy. America need a strong Democratic party to prevent this wave from further dragging our economy into the ditch. I'm for divided government but one that works together - not what we saw from the recent GOP/tbag crowd.

Posted by: truthseeker13 | February 18, 2011 8:20 PM | Report abuse

PUblic servants are not working people - they are our masters. This article convinced me:

Class War: How public servants became our masters

http://reason.com/archives/2010/01/12/class-war

Posted by: MaryOK | February 18, 2011 8:38 PM | Report abuse

As someone once said, "elections have consequences."

Posted by: LasloT | February 18, 2011 8:40 PM | Report abuse

The unions aren't to blame for the budget. However, they are certainly being unreasonable about co-paying pensions and healthcare. As for collective bargaining, it should be obvious that, if pensions/healthcare are on the table, Democratic givebacks will soon have the state back at zero co-pay.

Posted by: rburton1 | February 18, 2011 8:53 PM | Report abuse

No, unions are not to blame in Wisconsin they are to blame in every state and in the Federal government for the outrageous costs of employing government workers.

I am self employed. I pay 100% of the cost of my health insurance, and I make 100% of the contributions to my retirement in the form of my IRA.

Why the heck should anyone who lives off of my taxes have a better deal?

Government unions should be outlawed, and all of their health care plans and retirement plans should be cancelled - with existing assets turned into IRA's and HSA's.

We the taxpayers are tired of paying for your ridiculous gravy train.

Posted by: Berndh | February 18, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Mitch Daniels ended collective bargaining when he became Gov. of Indiana 6 years ago. The State now has the lowest property taxes and the lowest public worker per capita in the Nation. Wake up America!

Posted by: wxyz6200 | February 18, 2011 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Not the unions fault? MacIver News Service – For the first time in history, the average annual compensation for a teacher in the Milwaukee Public School system will exceed $100,000.

That staggering figure was revealed last night at a meeting of the MPS School Board.

The average salary for an MPS teacher is $56,500. When fringe benefits are factored in, the annual compensation will be $100,005 in 2011.

Posted by: jschmidt2 | February 18, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Blogs like this are the reason that people have to go outside the country to find responsible, sensible journalism about our own affairs.

How about...um...no. Try again.

The "unions" are directly responsible for the future budgetary crisis that's straight ahead for the states referenced. Just because the union hasn't raped the state but a little each year, doesn't mean the budget won't balloon and collapse down the road. If you look at teacher's wages, vs their benefits, you'll see the whole picture. It was "benefits" such as retirement and healthcare that were running out of control.

The unfortunate side of CBA's is that it leaves the employer powerless to make necessary adjustments individually or with a razor. Instead, they're forced to do surgery with a broad sword. People villify the superintendent that "fires" a group of teachers, having no understanding of how CBA's work. The Superintendent no longer has the authority to slough part of the workforce and is instead, held hostage by unions (which are a legalized extortion entity) to the detriment of the organization. It's exactly the same way that the UAW helped derail the auto industry.

If you like the concept that the proceeds should go to the little guy, then support employee owned companies. Unions are no longer necessary. We have modern labor laws, minimum wages, OSHA. Unions do nothing but get an employer pregnant and then hold a gun to their head to extort above market compensation out of an organization. Furthermore, the members usually end up paying ridiculous dues to union execs and the company, all the while becomes less competitive or even upside down in the marketplace.

The Governor of Wisconsin was actually making concessions in his new budget. You can't have it all....you can't expect NO LAYOFFS and then not expect to make serious concessions. If you don't like the union and the reduction in the CBA clout, there's always the door and the free marketplace....but that scares union workers because they know that they wouldn't be able to extort an employer without a CBA.

Posted by: tjfanaticus | February 18, 2011 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Every one of these filthy communists should be summarily fired, including the ringleader, Barack Obama. America must end the corrupt government union monopolies that steal worker dues to support corrupt Demo-commie-crat politicians. We must crush liberal fascism and restore freedom and Constitutionally limited government. Crushing government employee unions is job #1.

Posted by: doctorfixit | February 18, 2011 9:53 PM | Report abuse

I was a state worker for 30 years. My pension contribution was taken out of every paycheck and I never made over 35k in my 30 years. I also paid into Social Security. The state in which I worked was supposed to contribute a portion into the pension fund. They did not do this for many years. The pension fund is now in arrears--both due to failed pension investments in the recession and because the state did not pay their portion into the fund. We went for years without a raise in lieu of a better pension. If my state stops paying a pension, is that my fault? The hatred shown toward state workers now is largely from people who scorned the wages we made but now find themselves unemployed. Am I to be blamed for that too?

Posted by: amac3 | February 18, 2011 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Ezra-

While I find your commentary spot-on regarding the issue of the Wisconsin budget gap, I must stress to you that the deficit for Wisconsin is indeed somewhat more daunting than the $120 million figure.

You see, I too did not see any deficit in the numbers at first. My roomate helpfully pointed out to me, though, that the report which you are basing your figures on is slightly misleading. I take it you read Robert Lang's Fiscal Bureau report for the upcoming Fiscal years, projecting a balance less appropriations as $120 million.

However, Lang did not go into detail in that report. If I may, I would like to point your attention to a report issued by the very same Director of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, citing the Wisconsin state deficit as a little over $2 billion (as much as $3 billion).

http://www.mbo.wisc.edu/biennial/bienn1113/2010_07_09_WI%20Leg.pdf

That said, most of your article remains unabashedly correct, the only errors being your specific deficit figures. Gov. Scott Walker is clearly using this frankly modest deficit (considering the state of the economy in general) to steal away the essential rights of labor.

Just wanted to make sure we were reading out of the same playbook :)

Cheers,
Chris, from Milwaukee.

Posted by: DonBarno | February 18, 2011 10:42 PM | Report abuse

I hope the governor takes steps to protect himself against Obama's goon squads. His life is in danger.

Posted by: doctorfixit | February 18, 2011 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Why should private sector employees and private business people care?

-Why should private sector people care about government employee job security when they don't enjoy the same.
-Why should private sector people care about people who refuse to live under the pay for performance model they do.
-Why should private sector people care about people who have health benefits they only dream of having.
-Why should private sector people care about people who are able to retire in their 50's when the government idiots want them to work til almost 70 to retire.
-Why should private sector people care about people who get far more vation and holiday days per year than they do.
-Why should private sector people care about people who don't contribute to their retirement when they have to or starve in old age.
-Why should private sector people care about people who get their paycheck without having to compete with other businesses. Money up front regardless of demand.


As far as I'm concerned, S***w all you government workers.

Posted by: Tom2cents | February 18, 2011 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Seems like lots of people are having trouble separating the idea of pvt. sector union participation and public sector union participation.

This governor is kicking the union out of taxpayer funded government not out of pvt. sector employment where there may or may not be a perceived need for union protectionism.

However in the public realm, management has no limits to their cash availability and so have no real incentive to limit what they give away, and don't think the unions don't knmow it.

In the public sector, business' are working to make a profit and so the concessions they make come from their own resources and so a reasonable balance between keeping workers happy and making a reasonable profit must be struck.

Unions have no place in government entities and should be banned and banished. It was a poor idea when it happened and is a worse idea today....

Posted by: mntnflyr4fun | February 18, 2011 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, unions might not be to 'blame' for Wisconsin's fiscal problems. A generation of Democrat politicians are. But these unions, with the corrupt complicity of the former politicianss dependent upon the union vote as well as the welfare vote, loaded so much fat into union salaries and benefits-both health and pension- that the State is going bust. Unlike Illinois, the present generation of politicans in Wisconsin doesn't want to soak the tax paying public any further. Good for them. Power to the people was never supposed to mean power to the unions. Get off your progressive butt, get a real job making real money and maybe you won't be so sanguine about taxing working people into welfare state dependency.

Posted by: mp188 | February 18, 2011 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Rise up, America, and crush the commies! You have nothing to lose except a few million worthless job-killing freeloaders.

Posted by: doctorfixit | February 18, 2011 11:44 PM | Report abuse

This post is false and has been proven wrong. http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/feb/18/rachel-maddow/rachel-maddow-says-wisconsin-track-have-budget-sur/

He should do better fact checking. There are also multiple studies that show that pension costs are understated. Why are these people so in the tank for public unions?

Posted by: szroyko | February 18, 2011 11:53 PM | Report abuse

There is no rational justification for union representation in the public sector. Unlike the private sector, management is elected, giving public service workers a voice in their selection. Civil Service laws provide more than adequate protection against arbitrary treatment.

Public sector unions convert union dues to political graft used to further burden taxpayers in the preservation of union preferences.

Union-driven anti-productivity measures have contributed mightily to the loss of once lucrative industrial jobs in America and driven them overseas. Now public sector unions want to drive taxpayers into poverty for no reason other than to consolidate their own power.

We have no need for public sector unions.

Posted by: fbanta | February 19, 2011 12:55 AM | Report abuse

There is no rational justification for union representation in the public sector. Unlike the private sector, management is elected, giving public service workers a voice in their selection. Civil Service laws provide more than adequate protection against arbitrary treatment.

Public sector unions convert union dues to political graft used to further burden taxpayers in the preservation of union preferences.

Union-driven anti-productivity measures have contributed mightily to the loss of once lucrative industrial jobs in America and driven them overseas. Now public sector unions want to drive taxpayers into poverty for no reason other than to consolidate their own power.

We have no need for public sector unions.

Posted by: fbanta | February 19, 2011 12:56 AM | Report abuse

Liberals and Unions have ruined every state and every industry they have touched. We now see exactly what "public workers" think of taxpayers. The Democrats are the Party of Vigilantes. Including the agitator in Chief.

Posted by: kalamere | February 19, 2011 1:14 AM | Report abuse

I think this supports my recent revelation that democracy ain't all it's cracked up to be. We vote people in, and we have no idea who they are, or what they intend to do. What is the point of that?

We need to reform the voting process somehow. We need to reform the state and local media so we know who the heck we are voting in to office. Before it's too late.

We need to make voting registration easier so that more people show up than just a small committed minority, like say the Tea Party, who vote in governors for the rest of us. After all, Hitler got voted in too didn't he?

I bet a lot of the independents and moderate Republicans who voted in Walker did not know he would govern like this. If they did, the guy would not have been voted in.

Posted by: gosamer | February 19, 2011 2:16 AM | Report abuse

You are right Ezra.

It is Obama's fault. He is the one who is fueling the fire by sending in the DNC and his own Organizing for America.

Obama will be held responsible for every bit of it also.

Funny but all of those people who are in Wisconsin look exactly like the same people who were filling the Obama appearances in 2008.

Grassroots for Obama...not likely. Union and Acorn backed...for Obama money...you bet.

Impeach.

Posted by: letscheck | February 19, 2011 2:30 AM | Report abuse

Ezra,

Maybe it's time for an Egyptian still revoltion in Wi. That is remove the current state government, write a new state constitution, and go from there. The Gov. has all the hallmarks of a bull-headed dictator. It's time for democracy to return to the Wi. state government.

Posted by: Retired9 | February 19, 2011 2:54 AM | Report abuse

Dear rvaster

I found your post particularly obnoxious:
“the politicians who are signing off on these contracts with the public-sector unions are fully aware that if they don't tow the union line, they are suddenly going to find their campaign coffers empty come election day!”

Don’t REPUBLICANS grant corporations tax breaks because if they don't tow the CORPORATION line, they are suddenly going to find their campaign coffers empty come election day!” Are you as a rightist completely incapable of understanding the stupidity of such an arrangement.

Don’t you see that these arguments are valid for both sides? I do choose to support the thousands of public sector employees over the few but far richer corporate heads. I appreciate arguments put forth by both sides on this forum. I am a leftists and I am not stupid. I don’t have a degree in economics but I am a doctor with a 1550 SAT score. I haven’t crunched the numbers myself. Maybe they work out that we will save money in the short run with the measures Governor Walker is proposing. But at what human cost?! History has shown us that labor unions have helped to create much more humane working conditions and brought us out of the “medieval times”. As a doctor who is interested in public health, I look at the long-term implications of Walkers proposal and I think it will be bad for the people of the state of Wisconsin.

Posted by: Pineapple3 | February 19, 2011 3:48 AM | Report abuse

Dear rvaster

I found your post particularly obnoxious:
“the politicians who are signing off on these contracts with the public-sector unions are fully aware that if they don't tow the union line, they are suddenly going to find their campaign coffers empty come election day!”

Don’t REPUBLICANS grant corporations tax breaks because if they don't tow the CORPORATION line, they are suddenly going to find their campaign coffers empty come election day!” Are you as a rightist completely incapable of understanding the stupidity of such an arrangement.

Don’t you see that these arguments are valid for both sides? I do choose to support the thousands of public sector employees over the few but far richer corporate heads. I appreciate arguments put forth by both sides on this forum. I am a leftists and I am not stupid. I don’t have a degree in economics but I am a doctor with a 1550 SAT score. I haven’t crunched the numbers myself. Maybe they work out that we will save money in the short run with the measures Governor Walker is proposing. But at what human cost?! History has shown us that labor unions have helped to create much more humane working conditions and brought us out of the “medieval times”. As a doctor who is interested in public health, I look at the long-term implications of Walkers proposal and I think it will be bad for the people of the state of Wisconsin.

Posted by: Pineapple3 | February 19, 2011 3:48 AM | Report abuse

Klein shows here that he doesn't really have a clue what is going on with Wisconsin's budget.

No, organized labor won no big gains back in 2006/07 before the housing bubble collapse. Why? Because Wisconsin was even running a big deficit back then. In fact, one on of the unions even went on strike in Wisconsin a year or two earlier because Gov. Doyle, a Democrat, went along with the then-Republican legislature in forcing the unions to co-pay for their health insurance. Before that, state workers received cadillac health plans entirely for free. Since then, they pay a small pittance, and still nothing for their pension plans.

Wisconsin budgets biennially, and for every biennium over the past decade or more, Wisconsin has faced a huge deficit. The deficit shrinks slightly when the economy is good, but then gets bigger and bigger each time the economy sags, and the problem is just getting worse. The unions didn't win their big gains in this past decade, but in the couple of decades before that. This past eight or ten years has been the wheels falling off of the wagon as state finances simply aren't able to keep up with what has been promised, and spend-happy Republicans (Thompson and McCollum) were followed by a spend-happy Democrat (Doyle). Any of these governors could have averted the current budget crisis, but none was willing to make any serious cuts.

And, have no doubt, Wisconsin is in a crisis fiscally. Doyle patched over the current biennium by raiding the state road fund, medical malpractice fund, and every other fund he could dig up. The courts even chided him in one case for raiding a fund illegally. What he couldn't rob from designated funds, Doyle covered with increased fees and creative accounting tricks that pushed expenses into the next biennium, which starts this year. Even then, Doyle was a couple billion dollars short, and he found good fortune in the form of magical stimulus money from Washington, which tided over the state budget for a couple of years.

Well, state reserve funds are now drained dry. Fees are as high as they ever have been. It's time to pay for the accounting tricks, and stimulus money is expiring. Wisconsin faces a $3 billion budget hole, even with projections for continued economic recovery, and unless Obama comes along to magically bequeath hundreds of billions to the states again, Wisconsin has no way to cover the gap.

Yes, there are other places that Gov. Walker could cut, but unions are on the chopping block.

What is ironic is that much of this is the unions' fault. In the current biennium, they could have agreed to contracts 8 or 10 months ago, which would have prevented the current meddling, or at least deferred it until the next budget. Instead, unions stupidly delayed contract votes until after the November elections, and those contracts failed to pass a Democratic legislature in the final days before the legislature recessed at the end of December. Oops...maybe it was the union's fault.

Posted by: blert | February 19, 2011 4:55 AM | Report abuse

Yeah Ezra, Please SPEAK UP on Morning Joe!

Great article by the way!

The Great Income Divide! Who controls the wealth in the United States and why?

http://tinyurl.com/474czzp

Posted by: wdsoulplane | February 19, 2011 5:46 AM | Report abuse

retailme not and printapons saves me lots of time and money and more than that it make the online shopping lot more fun when you get discount!!

Posted by: dayleslover | February 19, 2011 5:54 AM | Report abuse

No one is "blaming the unions for the recession." The recession has simply unmasked the unholy alliance between public employee unions and the Democrats that has produced an unsustainable cost structure for the provision of government services.

And only a whacked out socialist would lament job friendly business tax breaks for making overpaid bureaucrats unaffordable. It takes real (read private economy) jobs to support the costs of public services. Anything that helps bring jobs to the state is a public "investment" that works way better than the Obama-style big government spending in creating sustainable economic growth.

Posted by: Lukey | February 19, 2011 6:00 AM | Report abuse

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average Wisconsin teacher salary in 2009-2010 was $52,644. On top of that, they receive another $22,000 in benefits for which they, currently, are paying nothing.
Hard for me to work up a tear for the "dear teachers" with these kind of numbers.

Posted by: backsds | February 19, 2011 6:36 AM | Report abuse

The real bottom line is this: Defined benefit pension plans are unaffordable in a zero interest rate environment - especially when real rates are negative. With essentially no yield on money in the forseeable future, every nominal dollar to ever be paid out must be put in. Most of these plans were designed with assumptions of much higher interest rates. The problem is worse for states like IL that never put much into their pension plans at all. Since defined benefit plans are the result of cushy union contracts, the best option for the employer is to break the unions.

Posted by: andrewp111 | February 19, 2011 7:00 AM | Report abuse

Blame Democrat politicians who wasted away surpluses and lavished rewards to public sector workers in the good times without preparing for the bad times.

The budget crisis the states find themselves in is directly related to the ballooned budget initiatives and unreasonable promises of the past.

Posted by: cprferry | February 19, 2011 7:04 AM | Report abuse

The problem is not the current deficits in state budgets, it is the fact that the states dominated by public sector unions have become relatively uncompetitive. I live in Ohio. My daughter moved to Florida and did not take a pay cut. But her taxes are way down. If we move to Florida now, my union teacher wife will take a 20k paycut. In five years she will retire and if we move to be with our daughter we will enjoy a generous public sector pension from Ohio and avoid paying income taxes on that pension and Ohio's high estate taxes when we die. Ohio is a high tax, poor public service state that is losing jobs every year and the reason is public sector unions and their stranglehold over state politics, excessive regulation and "progressive" taxation.

Collective bargaining for public employees has got to go.

Posted by: cwillia11 | February 19, 2011 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Ezra - stop with the fiction that the Wisconsin Governor is anti-union. He is anti-PUBLIC SERVICE UNIONS in Wisconsin.

Yeah, I know that pushing the lie that this is aimed at all union members is red meat for the 2012 Democratic Campaign Committee, but you should know better.

Craft and private sector unions have a place and are doing a great job acting as a voice of workers for competing organizations. Public Service Unions and their employer are a monopoly -- and if the present Egypt-like demonstrations in the state capitol doesn't wake you up that Governor Walker and the elected government have to get control of his state back, you're not paying attention.

But it's not an attack on the union movement!!!

Posted by: tommariner | February 19, 2011 7:58 AM | Report abuse

The problem rests squarely on the shoulder of the politicians who keep a system in tack that makes business and unions come to them for hand outs. Tax the crap out of business and then sell tax breaks which does more to enhance the power of our elected idiots than help business succeed which create jobs. Politicians who don’t create a defined benefits plan and then keep it up to date enhance their power by promising things they will never be able to provide. Public sector workers kept believing the money would always be there and voted the same idiots back into office. Do you really think many politicians care about your social security or do you think they know if they have a tight squeeze on your money they might as well have a tight squeeze on your B**ls?

Posted by: Tom2cents | February 19, 2011 8:18 AM | Report abuse

"Don’t REPUBLICANS grant corporations tax breaks because if they don't tow the CORPORATION line, they are suddenly going to find their campaign coffers empty come election day!” Are you as a rightist completely incapable of understanding the stupidity of such an arrangement. Don’t you see that these arguments are valid for both sides?
Posted by: Pineapple3"

No, it's been a fundamental tenet of the conservative platform before there was even such a thing as corporations. Conservatives [aim to and often, as we humans do, fail to] stand for principles, liberals stand for the empowerment of their political machine. Republicans and conservatives support tax cuts which reduce the percentage of ones' income or worth of assets that must be transferred to the government. It has nothing to do with the back-room demands of corporations or the latest policy paper written by a pro-corporation think tank. It has to do with protecting the balance between the individual with the differing levels of government.

Its concept is related the political theories of the Natural Law discipline, and form the essence of the Bill of Rights (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 10th quite clearly, but all of them really).

When there is too much taxation from "higher" levels the individual spheres of influence are made subservient and loses its rights. Republicans and conservatives have always held to protect the more local sphere from undue influence from the more distant, impersonal, "higher" sphere (individual and family sphere from the local government, local government from state, state from federal, federal from international).


(Also, be careful with the word "tax breaks" Tax breaks are tax credits, which offer unique exemptions to specific individuals and/or behavior. It's a form of political patronage. Don't confuse the term for rate changes which impact every tax payer.)

Posted by: cprferry | February 19, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

As I understand it, a large part of the blame for the Wisconsin deficit lies at the doorstep of the present governor. Some are saying he put the government in deficit to give an excuse to attack the unions.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | February 19, 2011 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein must be on the democrat socialist party payroll to write this propaganda. Most government agencies are worthless albatrosses hindering job creation in the private sector. But they are a valuable financial and electoral resource for the democrat party which keeps taxpayer money flowing in both directions (between the democrat party and their union appendages).
We're broke and fed up paying for freeloaders! Fire all Wisconsin strikers and replace them with job seekers who would appreciate employment with low expectations yet great benefits and pay.

Posted by: CowboyDiplomat | February 19, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

tommariner, you're wrong. Walker said during the campaign that he would decertify ALL the unions in the state. Luckily, he doesn't know his #@! from a hole in the ground. Governors, at least Wisconsin ones can do no such thing.

Posted by: LauraNo | February 19, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Have the unions gotten benefits that distort and damage things like the healthcare system and state pension budgets? Of course they have. If employers offered the same thing to you, would you take it? Of course you would! You'd be nuts not to! Almost no one would pay for something that they could get for free. That's not the fault of the unions, that's the fault of whoever made the promises to begin with. But if we're going to do this, let's do it right. There should be no cherrypicking between Democratic and Republican constituencies. The rule should apply to all.
And please, lets not start yelling about influence. I don't hear any Republican seriously questioning the influence of corporate sponsored astroturf groups in politics these days. Demonizing a group because it doesn't agree with you is pointless and unproductive. This country needs reforms that level the playing field for the common man, instead of favoring any particular interest group who can game the system. Maybe we need to work on that before we start throwing stones at those we think are better off than we are at any one point in history.

Posted by: sbellsapper | February 19, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

This was an excellent piece. Speaking as someone who IS IN A PUBLIC SECTOR UNION, I find myself increasingly upset at the continual discussion about how we are useless and this and that.

I work at the University of Iowa as a graduate assistant. I take my job real, real seriously. I do the best that I can at it and have the respect of my students. If it were not for a union, I would be making about 8-10k/yr while paying for my tuition and any medical services I would need (and have needed since entering). Additionally, I would be completely overworked, not allowing me time to do my own research and school work.

So, before all of you sit around slandering unions and saying that we are all lazy, get your facts right. Come walk in my shoes. Try running classrooms by yourself multiple times a week, grading papers, planning lectures, developing discussion material while still having to do all the requirements of being a graduate student like spending time in the library researching, serving on service committees, reading hundreds of pages a week for seminars, writing papers for journals, attending conferences, meeting with advisors, and attending seminars and lectures. If you think this is easy, you couldn't be more wrong. It's a full-time job. I probably work more than people with regular jobs do actually.

My union protects me from this situation becoming worse, which it would at the drop of a dime if I were not allowed to collectively bargain.

Let me ask a question: do I seem greedy to you? I want to teach YOUR kids for a living. Shouldn't I get the privilege of actually looking presentable and maybe even not be in debt up to my eyeballs because I can't afford to live where I teach? I think I should, but then, what do I know? I'm robbing taxpayers because I wanted to do public service.

We shouldn't penalize people because they want to protect their interests to serve the public. More importantly, the unions shouldn't be sucking blame for this one. The deficit is the governor's fault. They're asking unions to pay for their incompetence, not putting the allotted money in the yearly budgets for the past several years into the pension funds of public employees.

In the end, unions aren't the bad guys here. The bad guys are the Republican governors who can't own up to the fact that they've made a series of bad decisions in the past and have put us in a position where I'm scared for what could happen to my union, a union that has dramatically improved the life of TAs here at Iowa and was one of the driving reasons for why I came to this university.

Before you go and buy into all of this rhetoric against the unions, why don't you come talk to us? You'll realize we're really just like you and don't want anything more than what you want: decent pay for our jobs and benefits that say you actually have a modicum of respect for us as people. Is that unfair? Is that so un-American? NO. It's super American.

Posted by: speedboywonder | February 19, 2011 11:24 AM | Report abuse

The whole process exhibited in Wi is disgusting - -
Nothing there about democracy or education, just selfish and arrogant disregard.
Disgusting ! !

Posted by: Senior1 | February 19, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

I do remember the large strikes at the UAW in the 60's and the union got what they wanted because the automotive companies were making money with no foreign competition. What happened, the foreign car companies starting selling in the US because the US producers were fat cats and thought they know what the public wanted. Then the prices got too high for the US made cars (one reason was the unions wages) and the industry fell apart. Then jobs started to go overseas, why, the cost of manufacturing in the US was too high, union wages were too high. Many of the manufacturing jobs moved to the South first, because they could open non-union shops. Unions are not totally to blame, but they are part of the problem. I worked in the public sector for 40 years, I contributed to SS and Medicare, I retired and now receive a little over $1000 a month in SS and about the same from my old company. The rate I paid in was 20% for health care and at least 7% for SS. I have a friend that was a teacher for 30 years and retired with 85% of his pay and total health care. His annual salary was over $80000. It is time to look at the unions.

Posted by: dy19spider57 | February 19, 2011 5:07 PM | Report abuse

America, this ALL about destroying Democracy as we know it, PLUTARCHY is where we are going, no thanks to corrupt SCJ's that voted in a treasonous way to allow foreign influence into our elections.

Now, destroy ALL Public-Funded Programs and convert to PRIVATIZE FOR PROFIT and use public subsidies, just as they did to Medicare (Advantage Part D). PERIOD!

Let us discuss the outrageous salaries & profits that simply are ridiculous. Now address that FIRST before capitulating to SLAVERY. GOP, history, now if you aint rich enough, they can't hear you!

Posted by: gopfailure | February 19, 2011 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, if Republicans have their way, unions will become extinct. And when they are gone, then workers will begin to see the true face of unbridled capitalism at work.

Those same tea partiers who hate Obamacare, but complain that there should be no cuts to Medicare, are now attacking public employees. It is clear that these workers are but sad scapegoats for deficits caused by Republican tax cuts for the wealthy and for businesses, not just in WI but in many states. When Walker's supporters see their own benefits begin to be withdrawn they will howl as much as the unionized state workers are now howling.

People should remember that without unions we would not have 40 hour work weeks, employer paid healthcare, paid vacations, protected sick leave, pension plans, or minimum wage rules. Without the union-backed FMLA we would not be able to take off time for sick family members without losing our jobs.

The "carrot" held out to employers is increased profits resulting from productive workers. But do people really think employers will have given them these benefits if there were no "stick" waiting in the wings in the form of unions?

And before anyone attacks me as far left union member, let me state that I am a business executive and have never belonged to a union, but I am also a well-read student of American history. We ALL owe a debt to the union movement that we can never repay. It is disheartening how many of us are now willing to sell them down the river, but expect to keep the benefits of their work. As Daddy Bush used to say, "Not gonna happen."

Posted by: bells1 | February 19, 2011 9:23 PM | Report abuse

One point not made in the article is that one of the reasons so many states are facing huge unfunded pension liabilities is because WALL ST. ripped off the state investment funds and the union pension funds, just liked their schemes wiped out so many 401K assets. The unionized public employees should bear their fair share of the burden caused by the massive losses in investments, but what the Republicans are trying to do in WI is not fair, not fair at all.

Posted by: bells1 | February 19, 2011 9:31 PM | Report abuse

the laws of economics are the same as physics, unchangeable,,with regard to state budgets the same applies,,tax in ,,is your number, if you go over this number, by over extending obligations, and by or by spending ,then borrowing, you are busted,,thats the status of many states today, it has only to do with that, as far as collective bargaining, that is a big debate and should take place..

Posted by: patrickomalleyjr | February 20, 2011 7:25 AM | Report abuse

the laws of economics are the same as physics, unchangeable,,with regard to state budgets the same applies,,tax in ,,is your number, if you go over this number, by over extending obligations, and by or by spending ,then borrowing, you are busted,,thats the status of many states today, it has only to do with that, as far as collective bargaining, that is a big debate and should take place..

Posted by: patrickomalleyjr | February 20, 2011 7:25 AM | Report abuse

The anti union "Fox News ect" will create all kinds of turmoil to try and foil the working peoples rights. I was in the teamsters union in Baltimore forty years ago. I can say that we were responcible for getting over eight hours a day at time and a half and I received the best medical care I have ever experienced. For the last thirty five years I have lived in Virginia which is a right to work state "anti union". The companys now require employees to work twelve hours shifts at staight pay and don"t dare say no or mention unions "or you will be gone". The republicans are now in charge of the state and the future for workers looks even more gloomy. The SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION began for me when George W. Bush won his first presidency. I told freinds that life was going to get very bad and suicides would begin to break all modern records. "and look at us now" We can and will WIN this SECOUND AMERICAN REVOLUTION when we replace whats left of the bad politicians in 2012 and 2016. We have the smartest and coolist President I have experienced in my 65 years of life and I hope that he continues and is followed by a WOMEN " Hilary Clinton, Nancy Palosi, Michel Obama" I am the dirty white boy from Baltimore. ty

Posted by: kenizz | February 20, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Why are so many people opposed to unions? Isn't it the land of the free and home of the brave? In the former Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Communist China, and Cuba, they were against unions. George W. Bush gave tax cuts to the rich and went bankrupt and the Wisconsin Governor gave tax cuts to the business and have no money to operate the government. Where there are unions, people received good pay and benefits compared with anti-union establishments.

Posted by: vkozhimannil | February 20, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Republicans are opposed to unions because their corporate masters are the ones that donate the money to get them elected so that the R's can return the favor by eliminating business regulations, and it is only the unions who are big enough to fund and mobilize campaigns against them. For a great analysis of the connection between the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision and the war on unions, see this entry on Dailykos.com:

http://dailykos.com/story/2011/02/20/947391/-Why-Citizens-United-and-The-Attack-on-Unions-Are-Linked

Posted by: amoylan001 | February 20, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Case in point about, what do we know about the people we vote in. I looked up information about Scott Walker's campaign promises. Here is a WI site that details the many promises he made during his campaign. And this site was made before the current situation.

http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/promises/walk-o-meter/

No where among them is ANY declaration that he intends to shut down any unions. See what I mean?

Posted by: gosamer | February 20, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Ezra - Public sector unions are out of control. This situation is simply a direct in-your-face illustration of the fact that public sector unions are out of control.

I think it is clear that these unions will argue for greater and greater benefits for their members without the slightest consideration for the future.

Also, these same public sector unions seem to have a great deal of control over the Democratic Party. I think this is a dangerous predicament facing our society. I thought unions were necessary to combat the greedy corporation. They seem to have led to dead corporations. Why do we need them for government monopolies?

Posted by: smilek1 | February 21, 2011 3:44 AM | Report abuse

Tim Pawlenty of MN did similar things for 8 years mentioned here that the Democratic Governor of WI did.

Tim is a hero of not raising taxes folks and wants to be our president. Fat chance.

Posted by: aschmalmn | February 21, 2011 7:59 AM | Report abuse

~~Collective bargaining for benefits AND decent working conditions. People bash the unions, and yet the reason they have decent working conditions is because of the fight for decent working conditions over the past 8 decades. If you get weekends off, thank a union member.
Posted by: AnnsThought | February 18, 2011 10:06 AM

Bullcrap....I've worked pleny of weekends, forced to work 12 hr. shifts (normal was 8) and jump three different shifts in one weeks time, all as a union member.....get real!

Posted by: bertzel | February 21, 2011 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Give me a break, quit your crying you whiny asses...I'm growing tired of hearing all this rheteric and bullshit about how you're getting screwed over pleeeeeeeeease. You all ie;firefighters, police and government employees/corrections are OVERPAID and UNDERWORKED! Your shifts slash overtime is often spent sitting on you're lazy arse or sleeping, so yes you should have to pay up like all the rest of us, freaking quit crying already...I hope reality hits ya in the face and quick!

Posted by: sandsurfwave | February 21, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for telling the truth, Mr. Klein. May God bless you!

Posted by: educationlover54 | February 21, 2011 1:41 PM | Report abuse

This article is extremely limited in scope and misleading to people that don't understand or follow political, financial and economic issues. The "unions" (pretty large and wide group) of course didn't "cause" the budget, whatever that headline is supposed to mean.

Stating there were no major reforms or collective bargaining amendments in 06 and 07 is the author either intentionally or very ignorantly trying to persuade the reader of his pro-union opinion, and seemingly backing up his opinion with numbers for credibility. Problem is, they are the wrong numbers as well as exclusive of important figures, and don't tell the whole story at all.

The labor contracts put into place have built-in raises, and clauses that protect the members even during the worst of times, and often were agreed upon during the best of times. When non-union employees must adapt to remain marketable to their employer, union goons simply pull their contracts over their eyes and go back to napping.

I wish the author would provide his credentials for such poor analysis, other than being able to cook Kung-Pao chicken. I suppose terrible "journalism" isn't the cause for so much of America's stupefying ignorance as well, however.

Posted by: mbmusgrove | February 21, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Coming to a state near you:
The Teacher's Union contract is up for renewal. The players: The State Governor & the Union rep.
Union Rep: Well, Governor, it's nice to see that the $(large dollar amount) contribution we made to your campaign did the trick and got you elected.
Governor: Yes, it did. Thanks a lot.
Union rep: Now, about that increase in the pensions...

Even F.D.R. knew that Public Employee Unions are an inherent conflict of interest. They have no place in American government, Federal, State, County or City.

Fire the striking teachers, fire the Government monoply education system. Give all parents of school age children vouchers to use for home school (so mothers can afford to stay home and raise their children) or any approved private school. Lease the publicly owned school buildings to private schools. The new private schools could hire the newly unemployed public school teachers. The market would ensure the survival of the best private schools, who would be able to give raises to the productive teachers and fire the deadbeats. The CHILDREN would benefit the most, as they would have a chance at a decent education. Oh, and the private schools would be able to suspend disruptive students, so the students that want to learn would have a chance. You know, the students that raise hell and when their parents are confronted, make statements like, "My baby would NEVER do that!". Let's get back to personal responsibility for a change. Even when the present system "works", it churns out masses of workers who are all indoctrinated in the Socialist/Marxist/LGBT agenda. It's no wonder the teachers see nothing wrong with their illegal strike, or the horrible example they're setting for the impressionable students. Most of them were taught that same agenda.
How is it that we can spend rediculous amounts per pupil and get the results we have, when 100 years ago we got credible results (most students could do reading/writing/math) from a one room schoolhouse with one teacher and a cost of $5 per pupil per year?!

Posted by: bruce_baker | February 21, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

The WI unions were dumb. They should have poured money into both political parties the way that corporations do. That way they wouldn't have to win or lose with one political party.

That's all this is about--political power and payback. One party won, so they're using their power to undermine the supporters of the other party. No one cares about budgets or taxes--those are just talking-points. (Note the exemption for conservative unions.)

It's feeding time, and the sharks smell blood in the water.


Posted by: writinron | February 22, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Dear Ezra,

The link below says it all. Let us not forget the struggle of the men and women who came before us who fought for a better way of life. Some people are just not made up to sit behind a desk. This country still needs people who roll up their sleeves, go to work everyday and get their hands dirty doing a job they enjoy doing to make a decent living.
I remember my father coming home from work one day showing my mother six one hundred dollar bills he worked so hard to make during a week that included many overtime hours. He was very proud. Had it not been for the union he belonged to, his wages would have been much less and more than likely he would've been forced to work the overtime in fear of loosing his job. Forget about benefits such as health care, pension etc.
We the children of our parents , the people of the "Greatest Generation" must not forget how they made this country better for those of us who enjoy earning a decent wage, a safe place to live, and are still speaking ENGLISH instead of German.
Do not give away the rights our parents fought hard to achieve to give you and me a better way of life. Collective Bargaining.
KEB
Retired I.B.E.W L.U. # 145
Buckeye, AZ

http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/thom-hartmann-day-life-joe-middle-class-re

Posted by: ShOcKu2 | February 24, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

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